By Nicole D. Batey,
Special at AFRO
The Lincoln University Law Enforcement Training Academy (LULETA) is the first of its kind in the nation at an HBCU, where recruits are trained to become community-oriented police officers.
As of January 2021, the academy averages about nine students per semester, most of whom are predominantly African American. This consistency is unusual, given that other Missouri law enforcement agencies, which are predominantly white, struggle to recruit minorities. Chief Gary Hill attributes this to the academy’s location on an HBCU campus, as well as having a diverse group of instructors training recruits.
Hill, who is African American and oversees the academy, has been in law enforcement for 26 years and chief of the university’s police department for five years.
“People tend to go where they’re going to be comfortable or feel welcome, where they see other people who look like them,” Hill says. “Our goal was to increase the minority footprint within law enforcement in the Missouri area. We had no idea it was going to be as big as it turned out to be. We have graduated more minorities from our academy than any of the other 19 academies in the state.
Located in Jefferson City, Missouri, Lincoln University (LU) was founded in 1866 by African-American veterans of the American Civil War. In addition to the police academy, the university offers 50 undergraduate programs, as well as master’s programs in education, business, and social sciences.
Although LU’s academy does not work in conjunction with the university’s police department, their curriculum is comparable to that of other police academies. The minimum number of hours required by the state of Missouri for qualifying certification for a police officer is over 600 hours.
LU’s curriculum comprises 650 hours, including: a 40-hour CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) course, much of which focuses on de-escalation training; 16 hours of shooting scenarios, do not shoot, where recruits learn in what circumstances to draw their service weapons; 26 hours of domestic violence response training, including eight hours on how to deal with aggressive behavior; and approximately another six hours of recognition and response to mental health issues; totaling over 80 hours of de-escalation and mastery of aggressive behavior tactics, which is more than the state requires.
Most unique to the LU program is the open and safe space in which recruits must speak with instructors about racial issues, both within law enforcement and communities. These conversations are necessary to foster better relations between police and minorities, especially in a country where relations have been strained due to police brutality and unfair treatment of minorities.
“The conversations we have in our first class allow students to ask those uncomfortable questions about where we are as a society, before we start doing police work,” says Hill.
“The biggest difference between recruits going through our program and when I was a law enforcement recruit is the high number of minorities we have now. In my recruiting class, there were 26 of us and only two d between us were black.
In addition, the program boasts a 98% placement rate of recruits with law enforcement. There have been positive comments from students graduating and continuing their careers in other law enforcement agencies. At least several have returned to their hometown in St. Louis. Saint Louis has a high crime rate. Former recruits to the program, now police officers, often talk about how what they learned through their CIT training and de-escalation properly prepared them for what they face on the streets.
“I’ve grown so much just in those six months. I gained so much knowledge, confidence, and more that I can say this career is for me. I am ready to face any obstacle that comes my way,” says Ti’aja Fairlee (2021 LULETA graduate from East St. Louis, MO)
The last two weeks of the Academy are all practical exercises. The actors create disturbances and various scenarios requiring police intervention throughout the campus, including the university farm which consists of ten cabins and sets up like a city. Recruits are given a radio and are sent from their classes to their vehicles to investigate “disturbances” and incoming mock calls. They are then graded on their responses and handling of these situations. “We want to make sure our recruits can put into practice what they’ve learned in their books and training,” says Hill.
A positive outcome of the academy has been the statewide recognition they receive from other Missouri law enforcement agencies, regarding their recruitment and retention of minorities. According to Hill, “These agencies have difficulty recruiting minorities, and this is often because of the lack of representation of minorities within departments and at higher levels. They contact us about what we do, which allows us to have a conversation with them and ask them questions such as, “What does your service currently look like? What are you doing to actively recruit minorities? If minorities from your agency were transferred, did you ask them why? This for us alone is a great victory at the academy.
Time will tell what kind of long-term impact the academy will have on the face of law enforcement in Missouri. The academy’s hope is to be known for producing community-oriented police officers, who with confidence are able to best serve each community.
“Our HBCUs need all the recognition we can get for all the work we do and the great people who are here,” Hill says.
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