At a time when the task of community policing is becoming more challenging than ever, we need the best possible education and training for the men and women who choose to become police officers.

A college education has been shown to increase the ability of police officers to think critically, solve problems, handle conflict, and provide effective written and verbal communication.  Just as importantly, police officers with college degrees demonstrate a better understanding of civil rights issues from multiple perspectives, experience fewer complaints and disciplinary actions, and are less likely to use deadly force.

Over the past few years, Northern Essex Community College has been expanding our role in police and public safety training in the Commonwealth.

In partnership with several local police departments, we launched a successful police academy that has graduated over 400 officers.

We collaborate with the Essex County Sheriff’s Department to provide training for correctional officers and, new this year as part of a $1 million grant, college courses for inmates in county jails to prepare them for employment and transition out of incarceration.

And, NECC led a statewide committee of police chiefs, state and local officials, and higher education faculty and administrators that examined police education and training in Massachusetts and provided a number of recommendations for improvement.  As a result, colleges and universities are now able to provide credit for prior experience in Criminal Justice programs to military veterans and graduates of police academies; and a bill that would require police officers in the Commonwealth to have a minimum of an associate’s degree, House Bill 3810: An Act Relative to Police Education and Training, is working its way through the legislature this session.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of addressing and handing certificates to the most recent graduates of the Academy, who will soon be serving the communities of Haverhill, Lawrence, Methuen, Amesbury, Andover, North Andover, and many more; and this is what I shared with them:

 

Good morning.  It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you, the dignitaries here on the platform; the elected officials, chiefs of police, college trustees, family and friends of graduates in the audience; and of course, the members of the Recruit Officers Class of 2019, whose accomplishments we are here today to celebrate.

The mission of Northern Essex Community College is to provide high quality education and training to the people of the cities and towns that we serve here in the Merrimack Valley—and we are pretty good at that.  I find myself speaking to groups all the time with great pride about our healthcare programs; our services for first-generation, low income, and minority students; special programs for veterans; outreach to area high schools, and a whole lot more. 

But I will tell you that what we are here doing today is something I am particularly proud of—this partnership between NECC, the Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee, the Methuen, Haverhill, Lawrence, North Andover, and Amesbury police departments; and the dozens of other police departments sponsoring recruits in these academies for the past two years, which have now produced over 400 new municipal police officers for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts—that is something that fills me with pride for what we do. 

Because walking out of here today, each of you, in your role as a police officer in the state of Massachusetts, will be responsible not only for upholding the laws of the Commonwealth, but for protecting the safety and lives of our friends and our family, for helping our children navigate some of the difficult choices they will have to make, and for being role models for everyone you meet—sometimes a teacher yourself, sometimes a coach, and sometimes that calm and commanding presence in the midst of a crisis–and all the while, being carefully watched by a more cautious public. 

Yours is an incredibly important and difficult job, getting more difficult all the time—and worthy of even greater respect and support.

Nationwide, about 85% of first responders—police officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics—get their education at community colleges, and I am very pleased that NECC is able to contribute to that education in whatever way we can.

I hope that all of today’s graduates, as well as the academy instructors and sponsoring chiefs, feel that our campus has provided you with a rich and rewarding academy experience, in an environment where you were able to interact with many of the people you will be seeing when you begin the next stage of your careers at your chosen department. 

Because I can tell you, that we have been grateful that you were here, giving our students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus the opportunity to see the hard work, professionalism, and commitment to community service that is involved in preparing today’s Massachusetts police force. 

Thank you—and I wish you all the very best in your career, and in your life of service.