Cops and campus become closer

Danette Dooley
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Justice/Education Memorial University police studies program aims to fill needs of Royal Newfoundland Constabulary

Kirk Keats is one step closer to reaching his goal of becoming a police officer.

The 31-year-old will receive his diploma in police studies from Memorial University in August and will start working street patrol alongside more experienced Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) officers.

Keats says word that Memorial's faculty of arts will begin offering a major in police studies in September is great news not only for himself and his classmates but for veteran officers interested in pursuing a university degree.

Kirk Keats and his son Hunter. - Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

Kirk Keats is one step closer to reaching his goal of becoming a police officer.

The 31-year-old will receive his diploma in police studies from Memorial University in August and will start working street patrol alongside more experienced Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) officers.

Keats says word that Memorial's faculty of arts will begin offering a major in police studies in September is great news not only for himself and his classmates but for veteran officers interested in pursuing a university degree.

Memorial's recent announcement of the major in police studies builds on the success of the university's diploma in police studies program.

First offered in 2004, 112 constables have already graduated from the program and are working as police cadets and constables with the RNC.

Similar to the diploma in police studies, the new major program is also a partnership between Memorial and the RNC.

"The new program is available to the police officers who have finished the diploma program and who want to continue on with their education or any serving police officer who is interested in obtaining a university degree," says RNC Chief Joe Browne.

Browne notes as well that the initiative goes well beyond both the RNC and RCMP.

"It's not just for police officers. It's for anybody that has an interest in law enforcement. For example, one of our civilian employees might wish they had a university degree and they could pursue it through this new program. Or somebody working in corrections or justice who has an interest may pursue it," Browne says of the bachelor of arts program that earns the degree recipient a major in police studies.

Browne says in order to address specific needs of the policing community, many of the courses towards the major are offered online and via distance education.

"Serving police officers don't work nine-to-five. They work shift work, so the advantage of the online setup is that they could do their courses any time throughout the day or night. And this also means our members in Labrador and Corner Brook could take advantage of this and could earn their degree online," Browne says.

As someone new to the force, Keats' short-term focus will be learning from experienced officers while finding his niche within the RNC.

As the father of, Hunter, who is just days shy of this third birthday, and with his partner, Chantel Hussey, expecting their second child in October, Keats says being able to take courses online is definitely a great incentive.

"As soon as I heard about this, I knew it was something that I was interested in," Keats says during a quick stop at Hunter's first soccer game in Mount Pearl last week.

In announcing the new initiative, program co-ordinator Anne Morris of Memorial's sociology department said the multi-disciplinary nature of the degree provides a wide variety of perspectives on many important issues related to policing.

"Students can take courses in psychology, sociology, philosophy, political science, law and society, education, social work ... in addition to the police studies courses," Morris said.

Professor Peter Ayres, associate dean of undergraduate studies, said the university felt there was a real need for such a program.

"Police departments are increasingly realizing the benefits to their officers of a university degree," Ayres said.

While some universities offer police studies programs, Memorial's major in police studies is unique in the country, Browne says.

The police chief is not surprised that police forces from other areas of the country and from overseas are already showing interest in the new program.

The partnership between Memorial and the RNC has gone well beyond his initial expectations, Browne says.

"We want to take full advantage of Memorial as a world-class institution right on our doorstep and that's how the diploma in police studies program came into being. And then we're saying, well why stop there? Let's look at providing a service to police officers and others as well."

Now that that goal has been accomplished, Browne says, there are other exciting initiatives on the horizon.

"Next in line we're working towards a master's-level program. And once we get that done, we'll have the full gamut from start to finish."

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Education Memorial University, RCMP

Geographic location: Labrador, Corner Brook, Mount Pearl

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