The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) Correctional Officer Training Academy (COTA) is located on 40 acres in the western foothills of Tucson, Arizona, west of Interstate 10. Visitors and students can reach the Academy using the I-10 exits at Speedway, Grant or Camino Del Cerro/Ruthrauff. Please connect to the COTA Location link above for directions. COTA provides all pre-service training for ADC Correctional Officers and detention officers from many county, tribal and municipal correctional facilities and serves as a state-wide training facility for in-service training including Tactical Support Unit training, Leadership Education and Development Program, Caseworker Academy, Sergeant's Leadership Academy, Canine Academy and other special programs.
COTA is a vital resource at the local, state and national level for the law enforcement and private community, providing classroom and meeting space, as well as lodging. COTA hosts a nine week canine academy at times throughout the year. ADC canine training experts train dual purpose canines (drug detection and handler protection) and Officer Canine Handlers for law enforcement agencies from all over Arizona.
The COTA Campus
The campus is a fully-equipped state-wide training center with buildings for educational and residential use.
Our accommodations include in-service “hotel” style rooms and Cadet dormitories. State employees on travel status now stay at COTA at no cost. Students and instructors on travel status may also eat at the Academy at a much lower cost than daily per diem.
Computer Learning Center
COTA has an auditorium with a seating capacity of 160. There are seven full sized classrooms, two seminar rooms that can accommodate 40 meeting participants each, and a Computer Learning Center with 15 work stations for students.
There is a gymnasium and exercise facility as well as a one-acre grass field and paved running track available for Cadets, instructors and lodging guests. Instructors and Cadets have access to the Internet and their e-mail from the Computer Learning Center. There is also limited wi-fi access in Dorm 8 and the seminar rooms at no cost to students and instructors.
COTA also has 204 dormitory rooms for residential Cadets and Class Advisors. Each Cadet dorm has a dayroom with TV and seating for group meetings and study. Residents are provided three meals daily in a modern dining facility offering a varied menu.
State-of-the-Art COTA Academy
COTA has a Prison Simulator wing on campus and it continues to expand. It is comprised of a fully-furnished six-bed inmate dorm, a property room, a detention cell and a standard inmate cell. Other facilities include a Main Control room and a sally-port with a walk-through scanner and electric gate. The wing is used for practical hands-on training and role plays in a realistic prison setting. The Prison Simulator has a sound system that plays recordings of cell block noise made at the Arizona State Prison Complex at Eyman in Florence, Arizona. COTA training staff take on the role of inmates and they wear actual inmate clothing with simulated I.D.'s. This lends to the authenticity of the replicated prison environment.
A new Cadet class normally starts every other Monday at the COTA Tucson campus, and we sometimes hold regional academies at other prison locations around the state, based on staffing needs. COTA classes typically range from 25-45 students.
Academy staff is comprised of uniformed and non-uniformed specialties that provide classroom teaching, curriculum design and development, administrative support, purchasing, facility and hotel coordination, physical plant maintenance, personnel services, command oversight, instructor scheduling and support, payroll services and health and nursing needs. Inmates from a low custody level facility provide maintenance and hotel cleaning support. This outside work crew is monitored by a full time Correctional Officer. Instructors from ADC facilities around the state provide instruction in the classroom to supplement in-house trainers and bring subject matter expertise as well as a connection to our prison institutions throughout Arizona.
The pre-service, correctional officer academy program is seven weeks long. Our curriculum is approved by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (AzPOST) and actual college credit for the program is awarded by Rio Salado College. Most of our Cadets are employed by ADC; however, we also accept and train county, tribal and municipal detention officers who have intergovenmental agreements with ADC for this training.
Generally, we have 3-4 different academy classes running at any given time, with a new class starting and one graduating every other week. The class start schedule can be adjusted to meet staffing needs around the state. The seven week program is divided into three phases. Each phase is designed to address the different developmental levels of each class. As cadets progress in this pre-service training our instructional posture is intended to maximize learning and applying skills as they are learned to reinforce positive behaviors in the field. Cadets look forward to educational challenges during their time at COTA as well as a unique opportunity to bond with other Correctional professionals and develop the esprit de corps so important to a team-oriented profession like Corrections. We also accept Cadets into the program from county jails and detention centers around the state. Cadets are assessed in six primary areas.
The academic portion is composed of education and skill building in nine functional areas including Ethics and Professionalism; Inmate Management; Legal Issues; Communication; Officer Safety; Applied Skills; Security, Custody and Control; Conflict and Crisis Management; and, Medical and Mental Health Issues. Cadets must pass a weekly academic exam with a minimum grade of 70%.
2: Physical Fitness
Each Cadet is required to participate in a physical fitness and wellness program consisting of aerobic, muscular and flexibility conditioning.
3: Firearms Qualification
Each Cadet must demonstrate his/her ability to safely and accurately use the 9mm Glock, ADC service shotgun and 37 mm gas gun.
Cadets must complete coursework in firearms use, target identification and discrimination, chemical agents and use of force. See COTA Range Qualification Standards.
Each class participates in several simulated Designated Armed Response Team “DART” (specially outfitted and trained staff used to stabilize, isolate and contain inmates acting out in a prison) drills. The Academy has a fully-outfitted DART locker and Cadets practice techniques using inert weapons against inmate role players.
4: Self Defense
Cadets receive instruction in and practice the application of unarmed self-defense techniques. Cadets must demonstrate proficiency in this area, and are tested in both practical application and a written exam on self-defense techniques and use of force guidelines.
5: Professional Behavior
Cadets are expected to learn and model professional behavior. Emphasis is placed on exemplary dress, grooming and uniform maintenance as well as a positive attitude and active participation in learning activities. Cadets absorb the professional standards of the Department through instruction and role modeling. Their behavior is observed, assessed and guided by staff.
6: Ethical Standards
Cadets are introduced to the ADC Code of Ethics. They learn that Cadets (and Correctional Officers) are honest and do not lie, cheat or steal. Cadets are taught the value of teamwork and emphasis on working together to solve problems is part of the fabric of the seven week pre-service course. As part of encouraging this spirit of camaraderie, they are educated about the cultural diversity of the ADC workforce. They learn that ADC values diversity and that there is a zero tolerance for any acts or displays of discrimination.
COTA Distinguished Graduate Program
In 2014, COTA began the Distinguished Graduate program whereby one Cadet per graduating class is honored with this award based on empirical data. Class Sergeants track several criteria and tangible achievements, with Cadets receiving points for self-defense, physical training, firearms and weekly exams.
Scores are posted weekly where each Cadet can see how he/she is doing compared to his/her class members. The spirit of competition is raising the bar as we track successes and Cadets are training, studying and focusing harder to be better.
We’re raising the bar to produce better individuals, to graduate the best of who and what each Cadet can be, so that each becomes an Officer who can step forward to do the best job for the team.
What Every New Cadet Should Know
Once you’re assigned to a COTA class, you’ll receive the COTA Cadet Handbook. You are required to read it before attending COTA, as it includes important information such as clothing and items you are required to bring to campus.
You should also review the COTA Rules of Conduct and COTA Testing and Academic Standards as it explains expected behavior, testing procedures and academic expectations while attending COTA. You will be given a copy to sign during your first week in class.
COTA Graduation Ceremony
Cadets participate in a formal graduation ceremony upon successful completion of the Academy. They are awarded their badges and sworn to the Correctional Officer pledge:
I do solemnly swear that I will uphold the constitution and laws of the United States of America and the State of Arizona, that I will perform faithfully and honorably the duties of the Correctional Officer and will accept, without reservation, the responsibility and trust placed in me by the Department of Corrections and my fellow corrections professionals.