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Last modified: Wednesday, June 27, 2012

IU Police Academy celebrates its 40th anniversary

June 27, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In 1972, 34 students graduated from the Indiana University Police Academy, which commissioned them as its first class of police cadet officers. The program introduced a new career path for students interested in law enforcement from any IU campus. But it also was highly innovative and instrumental in raising training standards and expectations for law enforcement officers throughout Indiana.

This August, the academy celebrates its 40th anniversary with a graduating class of 36 cadets, bringing the total number of full-time IU students who have gone through the program to well over 1,000 young men and women.

Graduation ceremonies and an anniversary celebration will take place at 10 a.m. Aug. 11 for the new police cadet officers -- 28 from IU Bloomington, six from IUPUI and two from IU Northwest -- in the Indiana Memorial Union Building Alumni Hall in Bloomington. A reception is scheduled afterward in the IMU Solarium for family, friends and academy alumni.

IUPD Cadets

Conditioning begins each day at 6 a.m. for members of the IU Police Academy. The program combines a college education with law enforcement training and practical experience and has been instrumental in raising training standards and expectations for law enforcement officers in the state.

Print-Quality Photo

Graduates of the current academy session, which started May 7, will have completed several hundred hours of training over 14 weeks to become fully certified police officers in the state of Indiana. Lt. Greg Butler, director of the training division of IUPD, heads the program and is a graduate of that first class.

The IU Police Academy, while highly successful, maintains a relatively low profile, even in the IU campus communities.

"Before being assigned general public safety oversight, I was certainly aware that Indiana University had a top-notch police department," said Mark Bruhn, IU associate vice president for public safety and institutional assurance. "But like much of the university, I had no idea that such a successful academy program existed here -- one that has graduates working in hundreds of municipal agencies and myriad federal agencies, as well."

IU Police Academy was conceived and developed in the late 1960s and early '70s by Irvin "Skeeter" Owen, a retired FBI agent who served IU as director of what was known as the University-Wide Safety System. At that time, IU employed a handful of unarmed night watchmen and a few armed "special deputy sheriff commissions." And like most other officers in Indiana, virtually none had formal training. Owen wanted to create a program that produced college graduates trained in all aspects of law enforcement.

"The IU Police Academy started at a time in history when most police officers were just beginning to receive formal basic training," said Jerry Minger, a longtime police administrator with the IU Police Department and now director of public safety university-wide. He oversees IUPD, law enforcement policy and staffs on all IU campuses.

The Indiana State Police had started training troopers in 1935 with a five-week course, Minger said. Not until August 1969 was a formal training program introduced for law enforcement officers in other agencies, according to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy website. Even then, attendance was voluntary. Training didn't become mandatory until July 1972.

"I believe that with this program, we took an extra step toward professionalizing law enforcement," Minger said. "Blending a university curriculum, law enforcement education and practical experience under close supervision has advanced police services in Indiana, as well as agencies at all levels."

IU students interested in law enforcement apply for IU Police Academy, usually during their sophomore year after they have established themselves academically, although juniors can apply as well. Students must be enrolled full time at IU, and while most are criminal justice majors, any course of study is accepted.

Successful applicants are involved in extracurricular activities, and demonstrate leadership abilities and other traits police officers should have. Scholarship athletes, biology majors, music majors, cheerleaders and even an IU homecoming queen have graduated from the IU Police Academy.

Those students accepted -- usually 25 to 30 out of 70 to 90 applicants -- attend an initial two-week school in Bloomington during the August before their next academic year -- their "cadet year" -- where they learn CPR, automated external defibrillator and basic first aid. They meet academy physical test requirements and become certified in the Indiana Data and Communications System, a computerized law enforcement communications and information storage bank.

Then, in addition to attending their regular full-time IU classes, the students are paid to work about 20 hours per week during their cadet year. They learn to dispatch, assist with campus building security and work at various sporting events.

"As far as we know from interacting with a lot of other universities, especially those in the Big Ten, our program is the only one of its kind," Butler said. "What makes it so unique is that these college students can get a Police Officer Certification by a state-authorized academy, and then work as a police officer with full arrest powers, part time, while attending school full time. When they graduate from IU, they have a college degree, Indiana Law Enforcement Certification and that valuable commodity called job experience."

After their cadet year, cadets are required to stay on the IU Bloomington campus over the summer to attend the IU Police Academy, where they receive additional and advanced instruction in all aspects of police work.

Academy training begins each day at 6 a.m. with an hour or more of physical conditioning that meets prescribed standards. The curriculum, established by the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, is taught by a variety of police trainers, medical personnel and civilian specialty instructors.

All written and practical tests must be completed successfully. Failed academic tests must be retaken before the end of the academy, and if a student fails a second time, he or she may be asked to leave the program. A student who fails a practical exam -- such as firearms or emergency vehicle operation -- is not allowed to retake the exam until after the academy is finished, which means they are unable to graduate with their peers.

After graduation from the academy, police cadet officers continue a schedule of part-time work and full-time classes. They work some dispatch shifts and special events, but their main job is to patrol IU's residence halls to handle all the usual problems that arise when young people are living in close quarters.

Part-time officers are closely supervised when on duty and can carry a firearm only when working an assigned event for IUPD. They learn to diffuse tense situations, make proper arrests, conduct room searches and write out clear case reports.

Butler believes that having students as officers helps keep lines of communications with the rest of the student population more direct, understood and accepted. Because they also are students, the part-time officers identify with college life and have helped to break down barriers that often occur between students and law enforcement. The part-time officers eat in the dorms when they are on duty, and a small number are hand-picked to live in residence halls, their firearms stored away in locked safes.

"Each student officer has several years of practical involvement as a member of the IU Police Department while taking classes in a university setting," Minger said. "They are immersed in the environment during the formative training of a police officer, and that is exclusively found within the Indiana University Police Academy program."

IU Police Academy grads are the best illustration of success. A news clipping photo of first lady Michelle Obama is taped to the doorway of an IUPD office. Probably taken in March in San Francisco, the photo shows Matt Keithley, a 2003 graduate of the IU Police Academy, on a protective services detail holding an umbrella over the first lady's head to shield her from rain. Keithley worked full time for IUPD after graduation from IU until he was hired by the Secret Service in 2011. He is assigned to the San Francisco area.

"We are constantly amazed at where our graduates are today," Minger said. "They are judges, attorneys, FBI and Secret Service agents, and chiefs of police. The current superintendent of the Indiana State Police is an IU Police Academy graduate, and the most recent FBI graduating class had three of our alumni."