Law Enforcement at Community Colleges
Weiss, Jim, Dresser, Mary, Law & Order
The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and Microsoft Corporation have become partners under a ten million dollar grant to help community colleges develop information technology (IT) training programs. In a program called Working Connections, the colleges develop programs that introduce financially disadvantaged students to fields of the future that should provide a lift out of poverty and criminal behavior.
Police departments are being encouraged to join this effort as part of the on-going effort to provide community outreach and improve quality of life in areas they serve. Over the last five years, the partnership with Microsoft has produced 28 grants, plus software and technical assistance, to 63 community colleges in the United States. This service-learning cooperation has included help for students in rural areas, Spanish-speaking sections, western environmentally threatened areas (colleges in Hawaii and Alaska), and city areas such as Rochester, NY.
In Rochester, the 13,000 student Monroe Community College teamed with the local police department to improve the public safety in the city's downtown campus neighborhood and introduce criminal justice students to their future careers. The city of Rochester was threatened by street crime in the evenings resulting in people fearful of walking about after work and in the evenings. The organization Police and Citizens Together Against Crime (PAC-TAC) worked with Monroe Community College to get students involved in increasing safety in the college neighborhood. The criminal justice faculty and police officers cooperated to set up a community policing program and orient students before sending them out into the streets.
The police department and the mayor's office worked with MCC to help students recruit minority residents to serve on juries. The students increased community perception of safety, allowed the police to staff a substation in the downtown, fostered student relationships with local police, and helped them understand what a future in law enforcement entailed. This encouraged development in the downtown and opened the door for future investment in the program.
Gary Thompson, chair of the Law & Criminal Justice Department and a retired police officer, said they received their grant in 1995 to encourage an academic path into a career in criminal justice. They started with 40 students who were paid while taking law enforcement courses and working as public safety aids. Now, Thompson said, the program enlists 30-40 students a year who do close to 9,000 hours yearly in community service.
In Florida, another Working Connections project focuses specifically on IT training. St. Petersburg Junior College, located in St. Petersburg with other campuses in the surrounding Pinellas County area, has developed a new two year associate of science degree in Web and e-commerce technology. According to Kay Adkins, Associate Vice President Educational and Student Services SPJC, in addition to this program the community college is offering an IT Readiness Academy to prepare students with a high school education or a GED to enter the college programs. The program provides a bridge for students who come primarily from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and are less likely to succeed in a traditional college setting. The program will use computers to provide basic skills improvement, job skills and computer literacy. This program will give the students 11 credit hours toward an associate degree or community college certificate from SPJC.
The Clearwater, FL, Police Department, under the direction of Chief Sid Klein, winner of the 1999 Community Policing Award sponsored by the IACP, has joined with SPJC in supporting the IT Readiness Academy. The department volunteered to give space in its North Greenwood substation for the classes and intends to provide some used computers to the students for at-home use.
The Clearwater Police Department is offering a classroom in its computer lab at the police substation in a disadvantaged area. Financial assistance, including help for childcare and transportation, will be offered through local agencies such as the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and Vocational Rehabilitation. It may provide counseling and tuition assistance.
In order to understand the full potential of computers, students must have access to computers at home. Since students in this program may not have such an advantage, the police department has volunteered to provide refurbished computers from police equipment to every student completing the first four weeks of training. The students will also be given Internet access as long as they are enrolled in the IT Readiness Program.
The program provides career counseling: the SPJC counselors work with the students to examine the student's needs and potential for a career in the Information Technology profession. Once the student decides the direction he or she wishes to take, SPJC will help them continue training.
A Social Mobility Mechanism
Joseph Smiley, program director at the Tarpon Springs SPJC Campus, indicated the IT classes are offered in a variety of locations such as police substations, a Citizens' Alliance for Progress Center and on the campuses of the junior college. The IT classes are community based. The economically disadvantaged students will receive college credits upon completion of the course or courses. Technically, the junior college could not participate in the program unless the IT class students received credits. Students successfully completing the basic computer literacy class are enabled to continue taking other, advanced computer classes under the same program. A student cannot be expected to make the right moves without understanding the basics. While expectations for these students are the same as for others, getting them to this level differs.
A fearfulness exists on the part of students to get involved in taking a college credited IT program of courses, but all of the other students in the program are in the same boat. In fact, SPJC has two institutional objectives that are particularly relevant in offering a program such as this: to provide special recruitment and support programs that promote access for and retention of under-represented and under-prepared student populations, and to increase strategic community outreach activities, including building awareness of the mission, vision, communicating the success of SPJC, and focusing on education and training to meet community needs.
It is important to bring every student along through this program and into the college environment, an opportunity that many would not otherwise have. The classes offer the technological capacity to utilize visual display and a computer projector to help the student learn each step along the way. The program is called the IT Readiness Academy and no pre-skill is needed. Five credited courses are required: Internet Orientation, College Success Skills, Computer Literacy and Keyboarding, with the advanced course being Micro Computer Applications. It is extremely important to utilize display learning technology with these students. There are no real obstacles, just a matter of understanding each student's computer background and in that context take them from there and move them to a higher level. It is dealing with the students on the front end, screen by screen, step by step and achieving the learning objective. For some, programs such as this is a life long dream- the idea of just having it available and for completing it. It is a spring board to go on for a degree or degrees; to provide such enablement is the goal.
A Healthy Habit
Deputy Dennis A. Komar of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, Community Policing Unit, works with connecting people with the socio-emotional support that computer technology offers. For the citizens of his beat that are resource broke, he negotiated in connecting them with computer technology. It is a bridge building step in turning negatives into positives and building self-esteem or bridging the divide. Not only does the sheriff's office support the community college in its IT programs but it worked with such members of its staff as Paul Harris, Program Director Corporate Computer Technology, SPJC, to obtain used computers from business and industry and just give them away to economically disadvantaged families.
One problem was that they could not train all of the folks at one time. The parents are grateful and the home computers help prevent crime in the high points area. Instead of being out in the streets the children are at home behind their computers. They gave out hundreds of computers during the holiday season.
SPJC's Paul Harris wears a number of hats. Harris has a law enforcement background having served with the St. Petersburg Police Department, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. His job is creating certificates and degree programs in technology. Under Computers for Our Community in Bridging the Digital Divide and working with Deputy Harris, for example, he gave away 528 computers. Each computer is set up for Windows 95, Office 97 and Microsoft software. On campus the programs are the most recent versions: Excel 2000, Microsoft Word 2000, Access 2000 and Power Point 2000. For the IT classes, Clearwater Police Department is providing computers for those in their substation classroom.
The first stop for a law enforcement agency is to work with the junior college in providing instructors and material and to contact a computer corporation for recycled computers. Such corporations look to give such computers away as a tax write off- like giving to United Way. SPJC soon expects to work with other Florida community colleges in such computer programs.
Obtaining a Grant
The IT Readiness Program has been in existence for four years. The Microsoft Corporation created the ten million dollar grant initiative to help community colleges develop training programs that would involve local business/industry partnerships, a specific information technology curriculum, faculty and staff equipped to handle the students, and a focus on young people at risk.
SPJC was one of eight recipients in the country to receive the award this year. More than 140 institutions applied for the grant. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has worked with Microsoft over the last four years. The grants are based on the general objective of strengthening the information technology workforce. There are four objectives that have been hammered out over this period. The program must have business partners, there must be planned curriculum development, staff and faculty must be in place and the focus must be on workforce development. The grants are applied for and administered by the AACC.
The person reviewing all the grants is Project Director Lynn Barnett, Working Connections and Director of Academic, Student and Community Development. She noted that the U. S. Department of Labor estimates that 75% of the jobs in the immediate future will require information technology skills. This is why the AACC is actively supporting the concept of supplying these skills to young people in the disadvantaged population.
Without these keys to success, kids from lower income backgrounds will be locked into low-paying jobs and the ever-present temptation of illegal activity. Police departments, on the cutting edge of social problems, are aware of this situation. This is not just a computer program but can be put into operation in any setting. Local police chiefs can go to community colleges and ask if the college can provide it.
There are many ways police departments can work with community colleges, Barnett said. Police chiefs can send representatives to college boards to establish dialogue between law enforcement and the academic community. Discussions of methods of community service can swiftly evolve into partnership programs. The community policing officers have direct communications with the community, enabling them to discover potential students and encourage them to enter the program.
Close partnership and input from the police helps avoid one of the problems that can occur: community misunderstanding and diminished use of the program. The people who need the IT program can be unaware of it or hesitant to commit to it. In this area, the local community policing officer can be the catalyst for participation.
Each year grants are available and community colleges and the police can request this help through the AACC. To establish IT workforce programs, Barnett suggests that proposals include four objectives:
1) Have business partners; create strong relationships with local business and industry; identify technology needs and develop programs to fit these needs.
2) Have curriculum development; build an IT program by providing an IT certificate and an associate degree program; or develop a certificate/associate degree program with significant IT slant.
3) Have staff and facilities to supply the IT program.
4) Have a firm need and plan for workforce development that will deliver quality IT training focused on minority or educationally disadvantaged people.
Police departments interested in participating in these programs can obtain more information by contacting Lynn Barnett at AACC, One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 200036-1176; Phone: (202) 728-0200 x260; or e-mail: Wc@aacc.nche.edu. A pamphlet describing various Working Connections programs and participants can be obtained by calling Working Connections in Annapolis, MD, at (800) 250-6557.
BY JIM WEISS & MARY DRESSER
Jim Weiss is a retired lieutenant from the Brook Park, OH, Police and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mary Dresser is a freelance journalist who has worked in Washington, DC, Chicago and Florida.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Law Enforcement at Community Colleges. Contributors: Weiss, Jim - Author, Dresser, Mary - Author. Magazine title: Law & Order. Volume: 49. Issue: 10 Publication date: October 2001. Page number: 107+. © Hendon Publishing Company Jan 2009. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.