The Police Corps concept has drawn intense opposition from some quarters almost from the moment the idea was first proposed in 1982, with police officials questioning the wisdom of spending millions of dollars to hire people who may not make a career commitment to policing.
In interviews this month with Law Enforcement News, some police officials said they still have reservations about the program. Most now say that with an expanding pool of college-educated applicants at the disposal of law enforcement agencies, the Police Corps is an idea whose time has come and gone.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police remains opposed to the concept, said spokeswoman Sara Johnson, because of concerns about the short-term nature of cadets’ service commitments.
“They would leave, and the police agency would be left to start all over again,” she said. “Another point we’ve always brought up is that we’re not lacking in candidates for police officers. There’s an abundance of college-educated officers out there. That’s another reason why its not needed.”
“The concern that many chiefs have expressed both within the IACP and the state associations is that we’ve never really had a shortage of qualified candidates for the job,” said Hartford, Vt., Police Chief Joseph Estey, who serves as general chairman of the IACP Division of State Associations of Chiefs of Police. “The feeling was that the money could be better spent if it were earmarked for police officers to attain higher-education degrees and also used to hire police officers,” he told LEN.
Greensboro, N.C., Police Chief Sylvester Daughtry, who served as IACP president three years ago when a debate over the Police Corps reignited following its inclusion in the 1994 Federal crime control bill, said he still has problems with imposing a four-year service commitment on a profession that highly values loyalty and service.
“This is a unique profession and there must be some interest in doing this job prior to one’s coming into the service,” he told LEN. “For someone to come in just to fulfill a four-year commitment doesn’t serve the profession well.”
But others, like Lieut. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend of Maryland, think the four-year commitment might actually benefit law enforcement because former Police Corps participants would probably leave agencies as staunch supporters of the police.
Townsend likened the program to the Reserve Officer Training Corps in place at many institutions of higher learning. “Many joined the military and stayed in. But millions of them went out to their communities as supporters of the military,” she told LEN.
“I think it’s an advantage that not everybody will stay on. That’s one of the values of the Police Corps. I think it’s important that we have a citizens’ view of policing from those who have been in involved,” she added.
Adam Walinsky, a New York City attorney who has long been the Police Corps’s staunchest advocate, said the program now has the opportunity to prove detractors wrong.
“It will be a reality when we have thousands of kids studying in school and thousands more out patrolling the streets. Reality will be when we’ve actually begun to change lives,” he said.
Walinsky is well aware of the jaundiced view some officials have of the Police Corps, but believes the program, if successful, will win them over. “When we’ve begun to turn around some of these neighborhoods, save some lives and produce a steady stream of first-rate law enforcement officers, that’s when I’ll feel we’ve achieved something,” he said.