Law Enforcement at Community Colleges

By Weiss, Jim; Dresser, Mary | Law & Order, October 2001 | Go to article overview

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. …

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