JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (NewsNation Now) — A new police academy that’s poised to open in Missouri will be the first in the country to be part of a historically Black college or university.
The academy will open at Lincoln University in Jefferson City in less than four months, and its aim is to bring more diversity to the police force, NewsNation affiliate KTVI reported.
Lincoln University Police Chief Gary Hill said it’s a plan he’s been working on for three years.
“And that is to increase to have a diversity pool right here for local law enforcement agencies and agencies statewide,” Hill said. “But this is a program where you can be a college student and you can be just the general public and just decide, ‘Hey, I want a new career, I want to be a police officer.’”
The Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission approved the police academy at Lincoln University last week.
Lincoln University Professor Joseph Steenberger will serve as the director of academic affairs for the academy. Steenberger was a St. Charles police officer for 15 years.
“This is the perfect storm for us,” Steenbergen said. “The need is there, the students are here, why not do it? Seeing the state of criminal justice in the United States right now, we know things have to change.”
Lincoln University already has facilities available to house the program, including classrooms, an outside track and even a farm for practical exercises. The training will take up to 17 weeks and cost the school around $38,000 to operate, with the goal of bringing more officers on the force and strengthening relationships with the community.
Unlike some of the larger academies in the state, Hill said cadets don’t have to be hired by an agency before coming to the academy.
“When people pay for their own academy, they’re kind of like a free agent in football,” Hill said. “They are able to go to work for whoever they want to work for.”
He said he hopes the academy opens doors for minorities interested in joining the police force.
“I’ve always found it hard to be able to get people of color to come to the academy,” Hill said. “For the most part, people want to go somewhere where they feel that there are people like them.”
The Department of Public Safety will review the university’s plan for the police academy on Friday. If approved, Hill said he hopes to open the academy in January.
The academy would then become the 20th police academy in the state.
NewsNation affiliate KTVI contributed to this report.