Local universities to pilot Ohio college to law enforcement pathway program

Cedarville and Central State universities will pilot a state honors program aimed at teaching aspiring police officers the skills needed for a career in law enforcement, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday.

The College to Law Enforcement Pathway Program is designed to develop leadership skills by pairing criminal justice students with law enforcement mentors.

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“Students who graduate from this rigorous professional development program will have great potential to become Ohio’s next generation of law enforcement leaders,” said DeWine. “In a time when many law enforcement agencies are struggling to recruit highly qualified candidates, this program will create a pool of pre-qualified applicants with a strong understanding of criminal justice issues and the know-how to form positive relationships within their communities.”

The program will begin during the upcoming fall semesters at Cedarville and Central State. It will be open to qualifying upper-class criminal justice majors. Participants will be guaranteed a job with a partnering law enforcement agency upon graduation.

Beavercreek, Lebanon, Xenia and West Chester police departments are among the agencies planning to participate, as well as the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and Dublin, Fairfield Twp., Fairview Park, Lancaster and Reynoldsburg police departments.

Lebanon Police Chief Jeffrey Mitchell and Beavercreek Police Chief Jeff Fiorita said that their departments have been working to recruit qualified candidates, including women and minority candidates, to their departments and the program will open new avenues to accomplish their goals.

“It gives us not only the opportunity to participate in their development but an opportunity to hire them when they successfully complete the program,” Mitchell said.

He said the department has done a good job focusing on diversity and that a police department should reflect the community they serve.

Fiorita said that interest in policing as a career has fallen over the recent years. He said that when he tested, more than 100 people applied for the job and now he is lucky to get more than 30 applicants.

He said the number dwindles after the candidates take the entrance exam and he hopes the program will open the door for more qualified candidates.

“This falls right in line with our current recruiting efforts that we’ve had in place for many years,” he said.

The program will be beneficial to everyone, said Patrick Oliver, director of Cedarville University’s criminal justice program and lead consultant to the Ohio Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment.

“The students will graduate from a college program that will develop their ability to lead while being mentored and prepared for a career in law enforcement service, law enforcement agencies will have a pool of highly qualified applicants, and the universities will benefit by having this unique program for criminal justice students,” he said.

Being a police officer is a viable career and one that people should want to get into, said Sarah Shendy, administrator of the Ohio Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment.

“This is the best job on the planet, it is the most fulfilling,” she said. “A lot of people think about leaving behind a legacy, but as a police officer you get to see your legacy within your community and the kids you interact with. I do understand that this is a very rough time for law enforcement, but that’s when leaders rise.”

“Every single police officer is a leader because every single time we are out in the community we do have the potential of impacting and changing lives,” Shendy said.

There are many professions that change lives, she said, “but no one does it under the conditions in which law enforcement operates every single day.

“You don’t question if you are making a difference in somebody else’s life, you know.”