by Misty T. Nunn, Lincoln University; Photos provided by Lincoln University
The underlying purpose of colleges and universities is to prepare tomorrow’s workforce. Today, one of the greatest teaching tools and sought-after knowledge base lies in diversity. As the first and only police academy on a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) campus, the Lincoln University Law Enforcement Training Academy aims to answer an increasing need within the criminal justice system.
Academy Director Gary Hill, who serves as Chief of the Lincoln University Police Department, worked to establish the academy at Lincoln University because the 155-year-old institution provides exactly what today’s law enforcement needs.
“I was one of two African-Americans in my police academy class 25 years ago,” says Hill. “With our central location and student population, minority recruits will have easy access to our academy. We can begin the work right here in Missouri to bring more diversity to departments and agencies around the country.”
Data USA reports 67% of the nation’s police officers are white and 12.4% are Black. Hill says agencies have tried to recruit minority officers for years, but with more eyes on police brutality and deaths like Michael Brown and George Floyd, it is imperative to prepare officers that are more reflective of the communities they are committed to protect and serve.
Joe Steenbergen, Academic Director of the Academy and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Lincoln University, hosted the academy’s first job fair in March and says agencies were already interested in the recruits well before the academy opened. Steenbergen says just 1% of last year’s graduates from the state’s 19 other academies were Black.
The academy enrolled its first class in January 2021. The 22-week, 700-hour program will focus on basic law enforcement coursework, such as state statutes, firearms training, de-escalation protocol and crisis intervention. Unique to the program is the up to 90 hours the future officers will focus on learning about child abuse, domestic violence, welfare and fraud. Hill says this additional training will help officers create better outcomes when they are on a call.
“We want to increase the number of practical hours so that officers are learning how to react in a volatile situation. I truly believe that has a lot to do with the use of force incidents we are seeing.”
Steenbergen agrees the added coursework will create better-trained officers.
“I don’t know any other academy that is more focused on community policing. We want community police who can build and repair trust.”
The Lincoln University Law Enforcement Training Academy sessions begin in January and August and can enroll up to 25 students per session. The broad curriculum for the Class A POST-certified academy also includes 15 upper-level college credits. For more information on enrollment, visit www.lincolnu.edu.