The Jefferson City Police Department will hire and pay five student interns for the upcoming spring semester.
The City Council approved a resolution Monday that will allow JCPD to implement an internship program with Lincoln University, which will support 10 students across two semesters. Each student will work part-time for JCPD for 16 total hours during 16 weeks.
The program is available to juniors and seniors enrolled in LU's criminal justice program and provides students with three credit hours toward a criminal justice degree.
Police Chief Eric Wilde said the program will be funded through a U.S. Department of Justice grant of $35,290 through the department's community policing development solicitation grant.
"We're very thankful to have that gotten that grant from the Department of Justice, and it's going to do a lot for our cooperation and relationship with Lincoln University's criminal justice program," Wilde said at a city council public safety committee meeting.
Wilde also said JCPD is working with the DOJ to continue the internship through the following fall semester.
"Keeping my fingers crossed," Wilde said in an email.
Lincoln's spring semester begins Jan. 17. According to Lincoln's website, the Lincoln University Law Enforcement Training Academy was launched in 2021 and remains the only police academy at a historically Black college and university.
Joseph Steenbergen is an assistant professor in LU's criminal justice department and the course instructor for this internship program. Steenbergen said each student will spend about 10 hours a week working for JCPD in every division. The students will work with JCPD to set up a work schedule across eight weeks.
"One week they're with the detective bureau, one week they're with communications, one week they're in the (Cole County) jail, one week they're out on the road, so they're going to be experiencing all different facets of criminal justice and law enforcement," Steenbergen said.
He said these types of programs provide students with an authentic experience working for law enforcement.
"The students don't really know what's going on in law enforcement except for what they see on TV. Once they're going to get their feet in the door, they're going to find out what really is going on behind the doors of running a law enforcement agency," Steenbergen said.
Steenbergen said these field internship programs are especially important for criminal justice students not interested in entering the typical role of a police officer.
Of Steenbergen's students is a biology major who wants to work in crime scene forensics and two marketing students interested in working in marketing for law enforcement agencies.
"These kids don't have to necessarily be police officers or troopers. It's going to really open their eyes that it's not just policemen writing tickets or doing that type of thing," Steenbergen said.
The student interns will keep a daily journal, Steenbergen said, in which they will record activities, occurrences and assignments as part of the internship. This includes copies of departmental brochures, pamphlets and bulletins provided during the internship.
The students will then submit the weekly summaries and JCPD will submit a weekly evaluation to Steenbergen.
There will also be a five-page reflection paper due at the end of the semester, according to the course description. JCPD's supervisor for the internship will also provide LU with a weekly assessment of the intern.
Interns that are absent for at least 40 hours of the internship will fail the course.
Wilde asked the council to amend the bill Monday to change part of the contract so JCPD will write a check to the student interns for their payment at the end of each semester.
All council members voted in favor of this resolution.