Lincoln University still has many months of work before its goal of establishing a law enforcement training academy could be fully finalized, but the preliminary approval LU received last week offered more details about the university's plans for the program and what it would mean for the Jefferson City campus and surrounding community.
Missouri's law enforcement training authority on Monday approved LU's application for a license to operate a basic law enforcement training academy.
That preliminary approval started a months-long process of review by the state that could culminate with Department of Public Safety Director Sandra Karsten granting LU a one-year probationary approval to move forward.
If approved, LU would become the first historically Black college or university in the country to have a police training academy.
LU's President Jerald Jones Woolfolk said, "As an HBCU, we are keenly aware of the need to educate a diverse workforce for all disciplines. We know law enforcement and the public safety sector could benefit from a candidate pool that is more reflective of the communities they serve."
The academy's focus will be on attracting low-income students from minority communities.
The application states, "Our goal is for Lincoln University Law Enforcement Training Academy to be the prototype academy for other HBCUs around the country. Our hope is that we will continue to inspire diversity in law enforcement."
The program could also generate some profit for LU.
The application approved last week shows the university plans to start with a part-time night police academy in the 2021-22 school year, with an enrollment goal of eight to 12 students who may be working adults or traditional students.
The night academy would continue; but in the 2023-24 school year, a full-time academy would also be expected to become available — with two to four students enrolled in its first year, then seven or eight enrolled each year thereafter.
The university budgeted that eight recruits paying the $6,000 tuition for the program — plus their application processing and parking permit fees — would generate $50,000 in revenue.
Expenses are budgeted at $33,350 for the first year, including an ongoing $22,350 for instructor wages at $30 an hour, plus startup costs — mostly for acquiring emergency vehicles and fueling and maintaining them but also for supplies, equipment and facility rentals.
Once those startup costs are out of the way, expenses for the second year are projected to dip to the ongoing $22,350 for instructor pay, then become a total of $37,350 in the third year and thereafter — reflecting a director and assistant director's stipends that combine to $15,000.
That means the academy could annually generate anywhere from $12,650-$22,300 in profit for the university — based on the enrollment of eight students.
"It would be a fair assessment to say our academy will be funded by tuition and fees of the recruits enrolled into the program moving forward," Lincoln University Police Department Chief Gary Hill said.
Hill noted any profit generated would go into the university's general fund account.
Sandy Koetting, LU's vice president for administration and finance, said, "At this time, we project modest revenue in the first years of the academy. We anticipate that this will be a highly sought after program that will provide additional revenues for the university. Any additional revenues generated will support strategic initiatives as outlined in the Strategic Plan."
Hill would become the academy's director, and assistant professor Joseph Steenbergen would become the academy's director of academic affairs as assistant director.
Woolfolk credited Hill, Steenbergen and fellow LU professor Darius Watson as having "already devoted many hours to develop the academy, and we look forward to seeing it come to fruition as we make history as the first HBCU to offer a police academy."
Hill also serves on the state Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission that last week approved LU's application to establish a training academy, but he recused himself from that vote.
He said his and Steenbergen's respective existing full-time roles as chief and professor would not change, but they would both work on a part-time basis at the academy and would be paid for their classroom instruction time there.
Several LUPD officers would be part-time instructors at the academy, Hill said, but he added that no instructor expenses are anticipated beyond those already listed in the application documentation.
Hill said that while the university will need memorandums of understanding for access to off-campus, non-LU facilities such as the Department of Corrections' firearms range on Missouri 179 or the Highway Patrol's Commercial Vehicle Facility, there are currently no associated fees or expenses.
Effects on campus, community
Students enrolled in the academy would need to pay outside their tuition for personal supplies including their uniform, a handgun, ammunition and other equipment.
Hill said students would use third-party vendors to obtain that gear and emphasized LUPD would not sell any weapons or ammunition.
He also said no amendments will be made to university policies regarding possession of firearms or ammunition on campus: "With the exception law enforcement officers, no weapons will be allowed on campus. Possession and handling of firearms will only occur at the firing range."
Beyond LU's campus, something Watson told the POST Commission last week is the academy will expand the idea of policing — getting recruits to look at their profession from outside perspectives by getting involved with local nonprofit organizations.
One section of LU's application deals with community engagement and states something that will set the university's police academy apart will be "an added 45 contact hours (three credit hours) of community engagement which is designed to allow the student/recruit to work within community agencies learning firsthand the protocols, communications and the knowledge of how the agencies can and should work together for the safety of police, community and agency constituents."
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The work of such agencies where recruits intern may include homeless shelters, workforce development, probation and parole, juvenile justice, victim advocacy, suicide prevention, serving military veterans, citizen action coalitions and emergency management.
Specific organizations listed included: St. Raymond's Society; Disabled American Veterans; the American Legion; the United Way; the American Red Cross; the NAACP; Big Brothers Big Sisters; Rape and Abuse Crisis Service; and state departments and associations for corrections, social services, mental health, social welfare and family services.
The application also notes, "Financial support for both cadets/interns and partnered employers who are providing the mentoring and internships will be provided."
The sheriffs of Cole, Callaway and Osage counties all supported LU's application through written or in-person statements, stating that a local academy will help their departments get more recruits — and specifically minority recruits.
Traditional students attending the academy would be pursuing associate or bachelor of arts degrees in criminal justice.
Hill said there would be 745 hours of training; 800 hours would be the maximum, "as we are looking to add more training hours in the History of Law Enforcement in America (emphasis on minority and economically-challenged communities) and CIT (Crisis Intervention Team, 40 hour course) training, and increasing the hours for all practical training exercise to give the recruits more hands training outside of the classroom."
Competition with other police academies?
LU's police training academy would be the 20th in the state.
Other written letters of support for LU's application included in the documentation came from Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin, the executive director of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association and Missouri Capitol Police Chief Zim Schwartze.
However, Kevin Merritt — training director for the Missouri Sheriffs' Association — dissented, writing: "While I appreciate the initiative to offer the basic peace officer academy training to Lincoln students, I believe there are adequate venues for this training already in the geographical area," at the University of Missouri and at the Missouri Sheriffs' Association's training academy.
Merritt said MU's Law Enforcement Training Institute is full-time, Monday through Friday, and the Missouri Sheriffs' Association's academy is part-time in evenings and on weekends, within 15 minutes of LU.
MU's LETI, according to its website, is at least 600 hours and costs $4,500. A $750 non-refundable deposit is required to hold a space, though the fee includes "all texts, notebooks, two sets of academy uniforms required for the course, defensive tactics clothing, a parking permit, a graduation certificate and continuing education units."
The Sheriffs' Association's academy, according to its website, is 700 hours of training and costs $5,000 — not including the sort of supplies students must buy out-of-pocket, as LU has proposed.
Robert Shockey, executive director of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, wrote while there are already two other law enforcement training academies within 50 miles of LU, "there are countless people who want to acquire the skills and certification necessary to be a police officer. Many of these people are students who lack transportation to attend an academy off campus. An academy on campus is ideal in order to aid in the success of students who want a career as a police officer Lincoln's Law Enforcement Training Academy will also provide a platform for working adults who could not or chose not to go to college, by providing a skill set to those who want to start a new career as a police officer."
POST Commission member John Worden — who is director of LETI in Columbia — was also part of the unanimous vote to approve LU's application.
Worden told the News Tribune that while LU may be looked at as competition for LETI, "I just don't see it as that. They are recruiting basically for a degree program that will include the basic training academy as part of that curriculum. We're in kind of a different situation as far as who we are recruiting."
He said a lot of LETI's students are individuals who have already been hired by law enforcement departments but need the training in order to get licensed.
Worden did not immediately have on hand information about the demographics of the training institute's classes.
He said LETI runs three academies a year, and two of the past four have been full.