By Emmanuel Freeman
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University and the Nashville Metro Police Department have formed what’s believed to be the nation’s first Collegiate Citizens Police Academy.
Nashville Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson welcomes the new recruits, as TSU Police Chief Greg Anderson, left, and MNPD North Precinct Commander Terrence Graves look on. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson, TSU Police Chief Greg Robinson, and TSU Dean of Students Frank Stevenson were among those who came to City Hall on Oct. 18 to recognize the 27 TSU students participating in the academy.
The students, who underwent intensive background checks and application process, will undergo five weeks of training in the intricacies of police work and the criminal justice system.
“You are going to spend the next few weeks learning what it’s like for our police department and learning first hand by being engaged and riding along with police officers to understand what they do in our community,” Barry said.
Across the nation, citizens groups have formed partnerships with police departments to address issues in their communities. But this is the first “partnership” of its kind between a major U.S. city police department and a cohort of college students, according to Chief Anderson.
“Everybody has a citizens police academy,” Anderson said. “But as far as I know, this is the first collegiate police academy anywhere in the United States.”
Stevenson, the brainchild of the academy, said the idea came to him amid the cases of police brutality that have permeated the nation. He joined forces with the Rev. Enoch Fuzz, pastor of Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville, to bring the idea to the police chief, who immediately embraced it. In a few weeks, the academy was underway.
“I wanted to establish a forum that would bring young black men together with police in the wake of these protests and outrage,” Stevenson said.
The academy, which includes men and women, meets Monday and Tuesday evenings. It includes sessions with the Mounted Police, the K-9 Unit, the Special Weapons and Tactics Unit, domestic violence, as well as simulations, where participants play police officers with fake weapons. Recruits will also ride along with police on actual beats.
“These recruits will also hold sessions with our accountability unit to understand how we as police officers police ourselves,” said Sgt. Mitch Kornberg, one of the coordinators of the academy. “The main goal of this program is about perception and to use it as a recruiting tool. We want to get their perception, and maybe this way they can make a better judgment on things they see in the media everyday.”
TSU flight training major Christopher Cooper said he joined the academy for “personal reasons.”
“Being a black young man, I joined to get a better insight into what the police do and what I can do in my community to change some things,” said Cooper, a sophomore. “Their (police) jobs are very stressful, but they don’t get enough praise for the things they do. They are the same as we are. They go to their families at the end of the day, just as the rest of us do. Let’s stop looking at them as just the men behind the badge. Look at them as individuals.”
Ashtyn Wallace, a criminal justice major who is also a sophomore, agreed.
“I am excited to really get out there and essentially see how things really are on a real day not just in a classroom,” said Wallace, adding that she wants to curtail the “escalating drug traffic” in Nashville. “Being out in the field is a real great opportunity to see how things really work.”
TSU Police Chief Robinson, who joined the university about six months ago, praised the relationship between TSU and the Metro Police Department, which has resulted in the presence of more Metro officers on campus.
“I talk to them consistently and they also talk to me about how they enjoy the opportunity of mingling and also engaging with our students,” Robinson said.
He encouraged the students to take advantage of the relationships they develop during their training.
“Take your training seriously,” he said. “I look forward to seeing some of you as TSU police officers some day.”
The academy will conclude on Nov. 10 with a graduation ceremony. This is the second class of the academy, which graduated its first recruits last spring.
For more information about the academy, visit https://www.nashville.gov/
Police-Department/Get- Involved/Collegiate-Police- Academy.aspx