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A plan for "new cops." (The Police Corps)

Police departments in large cities are taking a long look at The Police Corps, a new proposal to supply less expensive, but college-educated police officers for community patrols. Desperately searching for ways to stem the rise of crime, cities are questioning whether the program, which is modeled after the military's Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), can actually deliver what its supporters promise.

Under the plan, college students would be offered federal grants to pay for tuition in exchange for an agreement to serve as a police officer for four years after graduation. Police Corps officers would be paid as entry-level officers, but training would be paid for by the federal government.

The proposal is part of the Omnibus Crime Bill, a package of amendments to existing laws. It is cosponsored by 36 senators and 50 congressmen, and has passed comfortably in both the Senate and the House. A first-year budget of $100 million has been set to pay for 8,000 to 10,000 scholarships. Within five years, the program is expected to produce 80,000 potential officers with a budget of $800 million. At press time, other provisions of the Omnibus Crime Bill were still being debated by Congress. The Police Corps will not become operational unless the entire bill is approved.

Adam Walinsky, a New York attorney who engineered the plan, says that it can provide more police officers to large cities at a cheaper cost because cities would not pay into pension plans for the new officers. New York City police commissioner Lee P. Brown, says there are other benefits as well. "[The Police Corps] will allow African-Americans to get a college education since the loans are forgiven after the four years of service." He added that the program would also "increase minority representation in law enforcement and enhance the education standards of police officers overall."

Linda Thurston, spokesperson for the Philadelphia-based National Commission on Crime and Justice says The Police Corps may too closely resemble the military. She is concerned that officers may not receive adequate instruction on conflict intervention and cultural sensitivity. "Training for police officers today is woefully inadequate," says Thurston.

A spokesperson from New York's Police Benevolent Associations says that the administrative costs of The Police Corps program could be better used for hiring long-term police officers. And observers say that because Corps officers receive different training, animosity may develop in the ranks. The measure is scheduled to be voted on this year, but is not a cure-all. It can only provide a steady stream of well-educated police officers that hopefully can help create a safer society.
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Author:Pelle, Patrice
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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