BOONE, N.C. — Fourteen new recruits have graduated from Appalachian State University’s Police Officer Development Program and are on their way to entering the criminal justice job market with college degrees, North Carolina law enforcement certification and up to two years of policing experience.
On Sept. 11 at Rosen Concert Hall, the recruits’ family members and friends filled the auditorium as App State’s Police Department (APD) recognized its fourth class of graduates from the program’s summer Appalachian Police Academy.
In 2018, under the leadership of Chancellor Sheri Everts, Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety Andy Stephenson initiated the Appalachian Police Officer Development Program (APDP) to equip students with the knowledge, skills and training to become police officers, all while they are completing their undergraduate or graduate degrees. The program — the only one of its kind in North Carolina and the second in the nation — is open to all full-time App State students regardless of major.
“I congratulate the newest graduates of the Appalachian Police Academy,” Everts said. “Through this innovative program, our police academy graduates receive extensive training and hands-on experience so they are prepared to protect and serve communities across North Carolina. These students and this program are the future of policing, and we are proud App State is leading the way.”
“Our 2021 recruits have done an outstanding job completing their training in spite of the COVID-19 restrictions that made in-person learning especially challenging,” Stephenson said, adding that graduates persevered and overcame many obstacles during their training to become certified North Carolina police officers.
The event also recognized the 30 graduates of the 2020 class. A majority of the 2020 class is currently employed with law enforcement agencies across North Carolina. In total, 80 recruits have graduated from the APDP, and 24 cadets are beginning their training this fall.
“Our goal is to graduate well-educated, well-trained, compassionate police officers. And we have,” said APD Capt. K.C. Mitchell, who leads the program. “I’m very proud of all of them. They’re making a difference. I get calls regularly now from agencies (saying) we want some of your people — send us more. They’re doing a fantastic job.”
APDP graduates complete more than 700 training hours and 38 blocks of instruction — each with its own test, as well as a course on implicit bias awareness. If they pass the 300-question state exam to become certified officers in North Carolina, the graduates become sworn police officers and can continue working as police officers as they complete their degrees at App State.
Caldwell County Sheriff Alan Jones was the guest speaker at the graduation ceremony, where he had a connection as both an academy instructor and a father of one of the recruits — junior criminal justice major Garrett Jones, of Lenoir. Alan Jones took the microphone from its stand and turned to speak directly to the recruits, offering advice gleaned from over three decades in law enforcement.
“I used to say, this profession is not for the weak … that was wrong, and I don’t think that (anymore),” he said. “You know what you’re strong in. You know areas where you’re weak. Develop the weak, and continue to keep the strong.”
Hailey Dehn, of Huntersville, the class’s highest academic performer, was the featured recruit speaker at the ceremony.
“I hope I speak for everyone here when I say that we all changed for the better through the summer. There is newfound confidence, strength and respect that I see in everyone here today,” said Dehn, a senior criminal justice major. “We found our calling, and now it’s time for us to go out into the world and act on it. Our training has been above and beyond what we could have expected, and it’s made us ready.”
In 2019, the North Carolina Police Executives Association named APD as the Law Enforcement Agency of the Year, primarily for its APDP. The following year, APD was named a Top 25 university police department by Safe Campus: The National Campus Safety Summit.
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About the Appalachian Police Department
Appalachian State University’s official policing agency — the Appalachian Police Department — supports the university’s academic mission by working in partnership with the campus community to prevent crime, solve problems and improve the quality of life on campus. The department’s philosophy is one of proactive community engagement, collaboration and customer service, holding the safety and health of App State’s community members as its top priorities. State-certified police officers, security officers and civilian employees compose the department, and this team of professionals helps to create and maintain an inclusive sense of belonging for all members of the Appalachian Community — students, faculty, staff and visitors. Additionally, through its efforts, the department aims to be a leader in innovative public safety ideas and strategies. Learn more at https://police.appstate.edu.
About the Appalachian Police Officer Development Program
The two-year Appalachian Police Officer Development Program (APDP) at Appalachian State University — the second of its kind in the nation and the only such program in North Carolina — equips students with the knowledge, skills and training to become certified law enforcement officers in North Carolina, while simultaneously earning their undergraduate or graduate degrees. Students become cadets in their first year of the program and have the opportunity to complete the Appalachian State University Police Academy during their second year to become sworn North Carolina police officers. The program is open to all full-time students, regardless of major, and students receive an hourly wage for the part-time work and training they complete with the Appalachian Police Department (APD). Learn more at https://police.appstate.edu/apdp.
About the Appalachian Police Academy
The Appalachian Police Academy, also known as “the academy,” is an annual, 16-week training program held each summer on Appalachian’s campus in which participants in the Appalachian Police Officer Development Program (APDP) have the opportunity to earn their credentials as certified North Carolina police officers. The academy is accredited by the North Carolina Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission to administer Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) and covers all state-mandated training topics. APDP participants attend the academy full time between the first and second year of the program and are paid for their time in training. After graduating from the academy, they may begin working with the Appalachian Police Department as sworn part-time police officers for the second year of the program while they earn their degrees at Appalachian. Learn more at https://police.appstate.edu/apdp.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.