CCSU and West Hartford Police Collaborate, Offer New Master’s Program
Through a unique collaboration, the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice has teamed up with the West Hartford Police Department to offer a specialized master’s degree program tailored exclusively for law enforcement professionals.
The program covers key topics in criminal justice, as well as specialized areas such as police administration and organizational leadership, budget management, and best practices for responding to and preventing crime. Organizers said this may be the first program of its kind in the nation.
“West Hartford and other communities want police who are well-rounded, with a broader view of the job, and a high level of professionalism,” said department chair Raymond “Chip” Tafrate. “This is a unique program that may represent a new model for graduate education,” Tafrate said of the collaboration. “This may be the wave of the future for busy professionals who wish to earn a graduate degree.”
West Hartford Police Chief Tracey Gove, whose 131-officer police department is one of the largest in Connecticut, realized his officers, and others, wanted to further their education, but had few options that would meet their particular job demands and career goals.
“We wanted a curriculum that would serve officers in the field,” Gove said. “This is about enhancing ourselves as leaders. While earning a master’s degree is important, we wanted the officers to get useful ideas and information that will help them in their daily jobs.”
The cohort of 20 law enforcement professionals, representing various local, state, and federal agencies, will go through the program as a group. Classes will be offered at the West Hartford Police Department, online, and at Central. Upon completion, the officers will have earned a master’s of science in criminal justice.
The West Hartford police station will be the site for some of the classes because it is a familiar place to many law enforcement officers. The town offers free training programs to 14 neighboring police departments to meet mandated requirements.
The West Hartford Police Department and the criminology department have a history of collaborating to provide innovative educational programming. The West Hartford Police Department’s “Behind the Badge’’ College Police Academy Program was developed five years ago and provides training and preparation for careers in law enforcement, according to associate professor Jennifer Hedlund. The eleventh session begins in January.
Tafrate said the new master’s program reflects a changing trend in the profession of policing. “Police departments and other law enforcement agencies are seeking to develop a more educated workforce,” he said.
“Some of the best and brightest students are now pursuing careers in police work,” Tafrate said. “That’s a shift from 10 years ago. We’re very excited about the high caliber of students interested in law enforcement in both our undergraduate and graduate programs.”
Gove, who earned a master’s degree in 1997, said from his research online, he had found no other collaboration of this kind nationwide. “I’m asked, ‘Why do cops need a master’s degree?’ Well, our critical thinking and communications skills are used every day, much more often than our weapons,” he said.
“Police don’t invest in themselves enough,” Gove said. “We invest in our families and the communities we serve. But it is important not to lose sight of our own knowledge and skills, and not be left behind.”
Classes begin in January and meet once a week for 18 months, through fall 2014. The students will also be required to complete a final capstone project.
Director of the Criminal Justice graduate program and Associate Professor Shamir Ratansi said the program will be demanding but also flexible enough to meet the needs of the graduate students.
“The classes incorporate real-world issues that can be applied directly to their work,” he said. Anticipating students from diverse policing backgrounds, he expects the discussions to be lively and engaging.
“In essence we are creating a great think-tank for law enforcement officers,” said West Hartford police officer and Central alumnus Rob Riccobon ’98. “Everyone will be in the same room bringing together their real-life experiences and ideas.”
“At CCSU we focus a great deal on community engagement,” Tafrate said. “I can’t think of anything more appropriate than this program, which not only benefits the police and CCSU, but all the communities that these officers serve.”