Thanks to the tireless efforts of criminal justice and legal studies faculty, the Sand Springs Police Department and motivated students, Northeastern State University continued its Collegiate Officer Program (COP), which prepares future law enforcement officers for The Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training certification exam.
CLEET is charged with the teaching, certification and continuing education of Oklahoma law enforcement officers. Typically law enforcement agencies send police officers to the CLEET facility in Ada, but Tulsa and Oklahoma City conduct their own police academies.
COP allows college students to pursue Oklahoma peace officer certification on campus. An associate's or bachelor's degree is required to complete COP.
"Northeastern State University has offered COP for a number of years but has never offered all components of the program to include the Practical Skills courses," said Dr. David Madden, assistant professor of criminal justice at NSU-Broken Arrow. "By aggressive recruiting the program was recently saved from extinction. The school has also submitted a new curriculum, including the practical skills courses, which has been approved by CLEET in Ada."
CLEET and COP training programs include classroom studies and practical skills components. COP offers all the academic studies required by CLEET. These consist of law topics including criminal law, civil liability and process, legal research, weapons law, evidence, criminal procedure and Indian country jurisdiction, traffic, first aid and criminal investigation.
Practical skills courses include firearms, law enforcement drivers training, custody and control and components of patrol instruction.
Seven NSU students are enrolled in the program this summer.
Madden said maintaining an avenue for CLEET certification at NSUBA is essential as more police agencies require officers to be college graduates. Graduates of NSU with COP training can pass a CLEET exam and enter the job market fully qualified.
"Once the student has completed the academic requirements of the program and the practical skills courses, he or she can then take their diploma, the school's certification of completion, and their record of testing for firearms training to Ada and take the necessary CLEET examination," said Madden. "Once they pass they have two years to obtain full-time employment as an Oklahoma police officer. One advantage is that they can obtain employment with police agencies that do not have an academy and cannot afford to send officers to CLEET training."
Dr. Cari Keller, chair of criminal justice and legal studies, spearheaded the preservation of NSU's COP. She said students used to stay at the Ada CLEET facility while completing practical skills.
"However due to state budgetary constraints, CLEET is no longer accepting COP students," she said. "They will only accept individuals sponsored by an agency into the full 14-and-a-half week CLEET program. That leaves college COP programs in a challenging position. But students graduating from a university who are prepared to sit for the CLEET exam are more marketable to most police departments in the state because the candidate already has the training."
She appointed Madden to direct the program and Dr. James "Buster" Hall to co-direct. Madden has more than 30 years experience in the practice of law, including service as an Army Judge Advocate. Hall has extensive experience as a police officer in Colorado and Oklahoma and served as a NATO police adviser in Sarajevo.
Madden said COP's greatest challenge was the lack of facilities for practical skills training: no cars or track, no equipment for personal defense training and no shooting range or firearms equipment.
Many of these problems were resolved by the Sand Springs Police.
"Hall has a long relationship with the SSPD, and so we through his good efforts obtained their help," said Madden. "The chief of police, Daniel Bradley, contributed the resources of the department. That included a pistol range, pistols, shotguns, magazines, pads, indoor training facility and other material support. In addition, CLEET certified instructors and Sand Springs police officers Todd Enzbrenner, Gary Everett and Ben Brandt served as adjunct instructors for the students in firearms and custody and control."
Hall said that, in addition to paying tuition and fees, the students enrolled in the program are covering other expenses.
"They have had to pay for their own testing as required by CLEET, criminal background and driving history reports, physical examination from their personal physicians and motel and meals for their week-long stay in Oklahoma City for the driving portion of their program," said Hall. "They've also bought duty belts and accessories, ammunition used during firearms training, as well as travel daily from as far away as Sequoyah County to Broken Arrow. Our students are paying several hundred dollars each, over and above the normal cost of their education at NSU in order to receive cerification. Their willingness to expend their own money and long hours shows their dedication to the profession and their belief that what they are doing is the right thing for them."
Saying that this year's COP is "running on enthusiasm," Madden drives 180 miles daily round-trip between Tahlequah and Sand Springs – in addition to his regular teaching duties on the Broken Arrow campus. Hall also has teaching duties and is assembling deployment education for Oklahoma National Guard troops headed for Afghanistan. Neither is receiving extra pay – the funding isn't there. Sometimes they do run out of gas, and they thank Dr. Frank Zeigler, who has substitute-taught their courses. Keller has provided her vehicle to transport students to Oklahoma City.
"A mission of NSU is to 'make place matter,'" said Madden, "and this program is extremely important to the well being of northeastern Oklahoma, because these young men will be leaders and are the future."
Published: 7/28/2010 10:27:26 AM