Students enrolled in criminal justice degree programs at these colleges will be eligible to join the pilot program in their junior and senior years. Upon graduating from the program and meeting certain criteria such as at least a 3.0 GPA and passing a fitness test, candidates will be guaranteed an entry-level job at a participating department, according to News 5.
Dr. Patrick Oliver, the director of Cedarville University’s department of criminal justice, assured that the program will maintain high standards.
“It’s going to be a very extensive, rigorous process to get into this program. I think we’ll have a fairly high elimination rate but we are raising standards. We’re not lowing standards,” he said. “We’re going to take the very best students. We’re going to mentor them, train them and develop them… it’s a special opportunity.”
State leaders hope the program will help solve the field’s recruiting problem in finding qualified and interested candidates, and will also increase the diversity within the pool of candidates.
Finding enough qualified candidates to fill the ranks and to maintain adequate staffing levels is important to prevent too much officer overtime and job burnout. Fairview Park Police Chief Paul Shepard decided to partner with the state’s pilot program after hearing about it last month, and sees lots of potential in it.
“Any business, any organization, the important thing is having good candidates to choose from because of the nature of the job. This program seems to give us the ability to find a diverse pool of men and women interested in law enforcement,” Shepard said. “The most difficult thing is finding that qualified candidate. There are a lot of people that want to be a police officer. It’s finding the person that is qualified to be a police officer. Want and being able to are obviously two different things.”
Shepard said that the program will create well-rounded candidates departments can invest in.
“When we hire someone, we invest almost $50,000 in an officer before they make their first arrest. That can be training, uniforms, background checks, benefits and other hiring procedures. We make a big investment in our people. Why? Because it’s the nature of the job,” Shepard said. “Of course we want the most talented candidates, but we also want the most well-rounded individual. It’s one thing if they can run a 4.2 forty-yard-dash but can they talk to people? Do they have empathy? Are they able to do the right thing at the right time? It’s the complete package that we’re looking for.”
Other colleges in the U.S., such as in South Carolina, are seeking to create programs as well that would lead into law enforcement.