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story.lead_photo.caption Lincoln University Police Department Lt. Damon Nunn responds Monday to a call of an unblocked door in an administration building. Nunn secured the door and continued rounds of campus. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Document: Lincoln University Law Enforcement Training Academy License Application


Lincoln University may in time become the first historically Black college or university in the country to have a police training academy, as the state's law enforcement training authority Monday gave the preliminary approval needed for LU to continue the work of making that happen.

Lincoln professors Joseph Steenbergen and Darius Watson presented Monday to the state's Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission LU's application to establish a basic training center — and the commission approved the application.

Steenbergen, a former St. Charles police officer, said the university's vision will be to specifically use the academy to attract low-income students from minority communities — in order to build needed diversity within law enforcement.

Watson said work on establishing the academy has been underway for about a year, and the hope is also to emphasize community policing and expand how recruits think about policing.

He said there will be partnerships with local nonprofit organizations to get recruits involved with the community and get them to look at their profession of policing from outside perspectives.

"Policing is more than just simply law enforcement," Watson said.

According to LU's application to the POST Commission, "Our recruiting efforts and national climate over the next year will determine whether it is possible to host a full-time academy beginning January 2023. We will be working in close partnership with the LU-ROTC, LU-recruitment and admissions by attending recruitment events with them on a monthly, if not weekly, basis. We will concentrate on Missouri students along with the athletes that are being recruited by coaches."

The same document also has enrollment goals for a part-time night academy as early as next school year, 2021-22 — with an enrollment goal of 8-12 students for the next two years, then 10-16 students in 2023-24 and 15-20 students thereafter.

Steenbergen outlined how the academy would consist of 18 elective academic credit hours for full-time, on-campus students in their last semester of working toward an associate or bachelor's degree, and it would be 800 hours of training.

Lincoln's application included other details:

- The academy would be located on the university's main Jefferson City campus in Soldiers Hall on Lafayette Street.

- Firearms training would be at the Missouri Department of Corrections Firearms Training Range on Missouri 179.

- Defensive tactics would be taught in LU's Jason Gym on Lafayette Street.

- Vehicle training and patrol and traffic stop training would be at the Missouri Highway Patrol's Commercial Vehicle Facility driving range and Busby Farm.

- Supplies not included in tuition that students would have to pay for would be their academy clothing, ammunition, a holster, duty belt, handcuff case, magazine pouch, handgun, magazines, a tactical flashlight and safety gear.

The proposal had overwhelming support from local law enforcement leaders, who specifically credited Lincoln University Police Department's Chief Gary Hill — who is also a member of the POST Commission — with developing the idea.

Hill recused himself from the vote to approve LU's application.

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Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler testified in-person Monday at the commission's meeting in support of the training academy proposal.

Wheeler said public tensions with law enforcement are nothing new, and he hoped Lincoln establishing a police training academy would start a trend among HBCUs.

Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism wrote in his letter of support, dated March 12: "In no way is my support for Lincoln University meant to discount quality programs already in existence in central Missouri," but given Hill and university leaders' vision, "I'd love to have more applicants with an advanced education applying at my agency It only seems plausible to believe this opportunity would also greatly improve the applicant pool of well-qualified and educated minority applicants seeking to serve our law enforcement community."

Osage County Sheriff Michael Bonham wrote: "The academy is needed to attract and train new officers in a shrinking labor pool of qualified and competent officers. If the Commission and DPS approves their application, this will be the first HBCU to have a police academy on its campus."

As Bonham notes, the state Department of Public Safety will be involved in final approval of LU's police academy.

The POST Commission's program manager, Jeremy Spratt, outlined Monday now that Lincoln's training academy has preliminary approval, a site visit will be done before the commission's next meeting.

The site visit's evaluations will be the foundation of a report to be brought to the commission at that meeting, where DPS director Sandra Karsten will decide whether to approve giving the university a one-year initial probationary period to move forward.

After that year, on-site audits will lead to another report for the director, who will decide whether to renew LU's license for a full three-year term.

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