Michigan law enforcement agencies in the central part of the state met at the Midland Police Department building recently to promote a new academy scholarship program to boost local recruitment efforts.
The 2022 Police Academy Scholarship program will sponsor several applicants for this year’s police academy training. It is funded by Bridge the Gap, a nonprofit that builds relationships between police and their communities in the Great Lakes Bay region.
Bridge the Gap not only funds local candidates’ applications and training but also partners with agencies to help pay cadets’ salaries while they study.
“Bridge the Gap looks forward to supporting individuals who carry the same passion and commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion within law enforcement as it does, in addition to building positive relationships between law enforcement and the community,” the nonprofit’s website reads.
In 2020, Bridge the Gap sponsored two individuals’ academy training. This year, the program hopes to sponsor 15 to 20 candidates.
“It is expensive; it costs just about $9,000 to go to the police academy,” Bridge the Gap board member Ayitah Sowah said. “The average young individual is not going to have that money to be able to afford the academy themselves out of pocket and also work a regular 9 to 5 when they’re in the academy from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.”
Law enforcement leaders from Saginaw, Bay City and Buena Vista Township met to talk logistics of the recruitment program. The program hopes to secure employment between cadets and local agencies.
Officer Sarah Irish, born in Bay County, was sponsored by the program last year and currently works for the Bay City Department of Public Safety. Irish was selected because of her close relationship with her community.
Now, she is encouraging others to apply to the program.
“It might sound cliché, but honestly, the opportunity was life-changing for me,” Irish said.
“I was a full-time college student, working full time, and I always knew where I wanted to end up in law enforcement. But trying to finance that and also then be able to focus on just going to school and getting into the police academy, it just seemed like there was no way. The sponsorship allowed me to purely focus on the police academy and put all my energy and efforts into that, and not worry about a financial burden.”
The program is open to anyone with a high school degree or GED who has lived in the region for over three years. Other requirements include having a valid driver’s license and no pending criminal charges.
Applications are due Friday, April 15.