At Tri-County Technical College (TCTC), we use the transformative power of education to create opportunity for all. Our student success mission equips us to do this work, and we have the partnerships to provide our students equitable opportunities to meet their career and life aspirations. Simply put, we are our community’s college.
As our community’s college, we strive to be a solutions provider and to work collaboratively with others to solve our communities’ most pressing needs. Right now, one of our region’s most pressing needs is to recruit, educate and train a diverse pool of law enforcement officers.
To meet this need, the S.C. Technical College System partnered with the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy to develop the Police Pre-Academy Training Certificate. The new 14-week certificate program, which launches this fall, aims to increase the education level of law enforcement officers and create a new workforce pathway for the profession.
There are many benefits to having a college-educated police force. For example, college prepares police officers for the challenges they will face in the diverse and multicultural communities they serve. As a result, studies show officers are less likely to use force as a first option.
Second, colleges help students develop creative problem-solving skills. These types of skills lead to better community-oriented policing. So, instead of responding to crime only after it occurs, law enforcement officers are able to proactively develop solutions to the underlying causes of public safety problems.
Attending college can also lead to more intercultural awareness. Being exposed to other cultures enables students to develop an appreciation for and openness to diversity, which helps law enforcement officers in particular better relate to their community.
And, lastly, policing is complex. Those in charge are tasked with managing million-dollar budgets, operating training academies and overseeing hundreds of personnel. Strong leaders who can bring about meaningful change in their communities are needed now more than ever, and colleges are known to create the kinds of experiences that enable students to learn what it means to be a leader.
In short, our state’s technical colleges are in a unique position to help law enforcement acquire the skills they need to not only do their job to the best of their ability but to build trust with the communities they are sworn to serve and protect.
Technical colleges like Tri-County are also in a unique position to bring diverse groups of people together to proactively discuss community issues and emerging law enforcement topics. Over the past eight months, we have initiated conversations between community leaders and law enforcement officials in Anderson County, Oconee County and Pickens County. We are also working with the Creating a Safer Upstate initiative to develop a series of community forums in the tri-county region that will allow residents and local law enforcement officials to come together and have a dialogue about what’s working well and what needs to be improved. If successful, these community forums could be replicated in other parts of the Upstate.
We are encouraged by the conversations we have had so far with community leaders and law enforcement officials and believe that the Upstate is on the right path to creating a safer community, a community where we work together to solve problems, a community where people respect and value the lives of all residents and law enforcement officers. These are goals we all share, and they are goals that can be achieved through the transformative power of education.
Galen DeHay, Ph.D., is president of Tri-County Technical College, a public, two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties in South Carolina. He is the fourth president to lead the college, which boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities.