I-Team: Academy Closing Leaves Cadets in the Lurch - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Academy Closing Leaves Cadets in the Lurch

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Jason Watkins Jason Watkins
Eight cadets upset about academy closing Eight cadets upset about academy closing

LAS VEGAS -- There is more controversy for the Las Vegas Constable, following his recent decision to close his academy.

The move came short of graduation for more than a dozen cadets. Law enforcement hopefuls who paid tuition, but now have no way to complete their training.

The I-Team first reported earlier this month that the Las Vegas Constable's office pulled its sponsorship of the Las Vegas Law Enforcement Academy.

The academy provided peace officer training for those not yet employed by a law enforcement agency.

The move effectively stopped training mid-session, leaving its students without a badge.

Promotional videos of the Las Vegas Law Enforcement Academy were posted on YouTube, some by its commander Jason Watkins, who also was the chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Township Constable's office at the time.

In June of this year, Watkins recruited his third academy class sponsored by Constable John Bonaventura.

Edgar Salazar is one of 14 cadets previously scheduled to graduate in November as certified peace officers.  

"I would give anything to be a police officer," Salazar said, "I made great sacrifices. I moved my pregnant wife at fives months, all in the name of a becoming a police officer."

Instead, the cadets learned earlier this month that the constable pulled his support of the academy effectively shutting it down.

A move that coincided with Watkins' abrupt resignation from his office.

"When the constable's office was part of the academy, it was structured, it was organized, it was a legitimate academy. When they were no longer there, it wasn't an academy anymore," one cadet said.

Word of the academy's status came not from the commander, according to the cadets, but from state regulators.

Audio recordings and emails obtained by the I-Team suggest Watkins initially misled the group. According to Salazar, when specifically asked about whether the program would continue, he was told by Watkins the only thing he had to worry about was getting kicked out of the academy.

"I told him I'd been told our certification had been pulled and I was worried about graduation, to me, it was a threat" Salazar said.

Watkins collected tuition from each cadet, they say up to $4,500 each.

However, according to the Nevada peace officer standards and training division or POST, it is the constable, as its sponsor, who is liable.

Bonaventura has long maintained he had nothing to do with the academy.

However, his staff served as its instructors, his offices as its classroom, and even now, his previous address appears on its corporate paperwork.

"All I want is the constable's office to make it right," one cadet said.

To the cadets, that means a return to the classroom not a refund.

For them, the opportunity to protect and serve is priceless.

"We're hoping that the constable or the county or someone will help us and let us get moving forward on building a career and a life," former LVLEA cadet Christian Watt

After several conversations with the constable's office over the last few days, late Thursday, the I-Team received word that the constable plans to get the cadets back in training no later than October 5.

A representative told the I-Team they are still working out the details but he "guarantees either they will finish with another agency or the constable will handle the training in-house."

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