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New University of Iowa class gives students hands-on law enforcement experience

Officer: 'You're shaping future police officers'

University of Iowa police officer Jackie Anderson (right) takes Carlie Newton, a UIPD intern and UI junior, into custody
University of Iowa police officer Jackie Anderson (right) takes Carlie Newton, a UIPD intern and UI junior, into custody during a role play exercise of a domestic violence incident during a student police academy course at the University of Iowa Department of Public Safety in Iowa City on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Students in the class observed the incident and arrests and were to write supplemental reports as a class exercise. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — To serve, protect and ... grade quizzes?

It’s all in a day’s work for members of the University of Iowa Department of Public Safety who have teamed up with the UI Department of Sociology to offer a course on police work to students this semester. The class, Student Practicum in Policing, is meant to give students a hands-on look at law enforcement.

“It puts the actual field into perspective,” said officer Alton Poole, the police department’s Community Outreach Specialist. “They have an idea of what they’re actually getting into.”

Poole — who leads the class along with Sgt. Oleta Davis — said UI police have wanted to do an academic course in the past. While they have offered classes on Rape Aggression Defense, Violent Incident Survival Training and other educational opportunities, a semesterlong course never came to fruition. This year, the police department approached the Department of Sociology to ask them to find a professor to sponsor a course. The sociology department tapped Michaela Ruppert, a criminology lecturer.

“They said, ‘Is there a way we can sort of get this and get students engaged and get them some credit for this?’ ” Ruppert said.

Twenty-four students are enrolled in the course this year, all with an interest in going into law enforcement careers, Poole said. Ruppert supervises the academic side of the course by selecting readings and writing and grading quizzes.

“They can cover just about anything they want to cover, however they want to cover it,” Ruppert said of police.

Poole and Davis handle the hands-on portion of the class, which takes place for two-and-a-half hours every Wednesday. The semester kicked off with a tour of the jail and other topics have included fair and impartial policing, interviewing and interrogation, sexual assault investigation, threat assessment, crisis intervention training, K9s and special response teams. For the session on bomb squads, the class went to the Johnson County Joint Emergency Communication Center and blew up a pumpkin.

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“It’s not just theory in the classroom, you’re getting firsthand experience from the officers,” Poole said.

One of the students, Madelon Roland, 21, said she has appreciated the hands-on experience the class offers. What she has enjoyed most, though, is getting to know the officers.

“You get to know them as people, take away the uniform,” she said.

Simranjeet Singh, 22, agreed and said the course has helped prepare him for a future career in law enforcement.

“It gives an inside look at the police department,” he said. “It gives me a look at what I’ll be doing.”

That kind of experience is valuable, Ruppert said. She also noted that introducing the students to officers from area departments through the class offers a valuable networking opportunity.

“We don’t have 30 policing internships to offer them,” she said. “If you can massively produce the same experience ... I think that’s going to be beneficial.”

Poole said they are “barely scratching the surface” of what students would learn in a police academy. But, the course does start to prepare students for what they can expect in a law enforcement career. Poole said one student from the class has been hired by a police department and another has taken an internship.

“You’re shaping future police officers,” Poole said. “These are future leaders.

“It’s been fun.”

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Poole and Ruppert said they will take the spring to analyze the class and look for any opportunities to make improvements. They plan to offer the course again next fall.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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