Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The News in Me
As a communication studies major I am able dip my talents into various types of media, both by choice and requirement. I semi-recently wrote an article for The Rotunda, the campus newspaper, about the new Farmville Chief of Police, Chief Mooney, and what changes he would like to see happen with the department. For this article I was also able to speak with Longwood’s Chief of Police, Chief Robert Beach, where he divulged some new information of his own.
Beach informed me that he would like to start a student police academy at Longwood University. The academy would be a 12 week program where students could go to 24 to 30-some hours of training in order to get an in-depth look of how the police and criminal justice system work. Beach hopes to get this program up and running in the fall but has no intention of rushing the project in order to ensure that it is done right. The program will most likely start off being provided once a year and then, depending on interest, may increase to once a semester. There will be a fee, although it should be relatively small.
This program has been a long time in the making. For the past two years, Beach has been working with The Joint Committee for Students Rights Education, of which he is an adviser, in order to develop an appropriate program for Longwood students. The program, according to Beach, would essentially be a “little police academy” where students can see exactly how law enforcement works and even try their hand at some scripted police work or scenarios.
Beach explained the importance of providing and attending such a program. He said, “With every freedom comes a certain amount of responsibility, as a matter of fact a whole lot of responsibility. The interaction between the citizen and its local government and particularly its police department it’s very, very important to understand what your rights are and what your responsibilities are; understanding how law enforcement works, how the criminal justice system works, that’s an important piece for protecting yourself [and] your family.”
According to Beach there are a number of universities around the country that have successfully put on a program similar to the one he is attempting to develop at Longwood. Beach strongly believes that “for a place that speaks to citizen leaders, that’s an important element I think,” said Beach.
Graduates of the student police academy “become a supporting arm of the police department” and “have a relationship with the police department that is different than the average citizen,” said Beach. This is a citizen awareness type program that he believes might actually spark interest in some students in areas of law enforcement or criminal investigation.
The Chairman of The Joint Committee for Students Rights Education, Jordan Miles, said that the main thing the program will need is “support from the students, the faculty and the staff and the administration.” Without that support he does not believe the program will be as successful as it could potentially be if people actually take interest in it.
Kristen Wander, a political science major is excited about this program coming to Longwood.
“I think it’ll actually be really good to have because I know I’m not the only who will think about going into the police academy or into the military; and both I think would benefit from having the student police academy,” said Wander.
Wander also believes that the program should not only be directed to criminal justice or political science majors, but to everyone on campus.
“I think everyone should know what the laws are and what officers do and I think it’ll help for student-police relations here on campus because if you are having more students who are learning about what the officers actually have to do it’ll help the student body understand that they’re not necessarily always out to get us…and some things they have to do,” said Wander.
I am 100% on-board with this program and I hope that students actually take interest in it. As a daughter of an Arlington/DC Detective, I’ve grown up around officers. Not only am I comfortable around them, but I have also had the opportunity to learn from them and see them has actual human beings with families of their own.
Most college kids see cops as power hungry animals who are only out to get them. Although I can’t say this is never the case, I can easily say this it is very, very rarely the case. Just like in any profession, there is always going to be someone who abuses their authority and ruins it for everyone else. But my hope is that when students and police officers come together for this program, they will be able to see the other side of issues and opinions and at least come up with a mutual respect for each other.
Like beach said, it’s important to know the law in order to protect yourself. I can’t tell you how many times knowing the law and the habits of police officers has helped me get out of or avoid a pickle. Whether you like it or not, the day will come (if it hasn’t already) when you will have to interact with a police officer and wouldn’t you want to feel comfortable and confident?
But will students actually take part in this program? Or will they continue to sit back and complain about the injustices in the world? I hope that this opportunity will not go unnoticed or pass by students without triggering any interest.