Nashville program gives students insight into law enforcement careers

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A recently announced partnership between Nashville leaders aims to boost student interest in careers in law enforcement.

The joint effort, dubbed The Law Enforcement Collaborative, provides students from elementary school through college with ways to learn and pursue careers with the Metro Nashville Police Department.

It unifies and expands several existing programs offered by the MNPD, Metro Nashville Public Schools, Nashville State Community College, and other local organizations.

Mayor John Cooper was on hand Tuesday to present the program to the Tennessee Board of Regents office in Nashville.

“We need critical thinkers. We need creative problem solvers,” Cooper said. “We need a police department as gloriously diverse as our city.”

Nashville Police Chief John Drake, MNPS Director Adrienne Battle, Nashville State President Shanna Jackson, and leaders of the Tennessee Board of Regents also spoke at the conference.

Nashville Police Chief John Drake speaks during a press conference for the new Law Enforcement Collaborative, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Students as young as third grade have the opportunity to explore career paths with MNPD.

Primary school students can participate in youth and adventure camps and other outreach events organized by the MNPD. Middle schoolers can join the Police Activities League or DARE or attend summer camps and carnivals with the department. High school students can take dual-enrollment courses for college credit or join the MNPD cadet program.

High school graduates can accept internships, civilian jobs, or corrections officer roles with the MNPD. Nashville State Community College also offers courses that work in tandem with the MNPD Police Academy.

Battle said she hopes MNPS students see the police as a force for good in their lives, and that the police also see the potential in the students they serve.

“We know there have been some very difficult conversations over the past few years about policing — particularly when it comes to the black and brown community,” Battle said Tuesday. “As a predominantly black and brown student district, this concerns me, which is why it is important that the MNPS and MNPD work together … so that our next generation of police recruits understand and are part of communities, neighborhoods and the schools they all serve.

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Nashville model used statewide

The Tennessee Board of Regents will use a similar model to Nashville for partnerships across Tennessee. A network of 40 public community and technical colleges will work with local law enforcement agencies throughout the state. Correctional officer training programs, including apprenticeships and certifications, will also be expanded.

Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tydings thanked those who helped develop the model for the newly launched collaboration in Nashville.

“It creates pathways in high schools and our colleges to help students achieve their career goals,” Tydings said in a press release. “And it reinforces our essential public service mission in helping law enforcement meet their workforce needs.”

Find journalist Rachel Wegner at [email protected] or on Twitter @rachelannwegner.

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