For the second time this year, Fitchburg State University welcomed an international delegation to learn more about its groundbreaking police program and its mission to respond to evolving community needs in the profession.
The university this week hosted several public safety and education professionals from the Srpska Republic in Eastern Europe. The visit to Fitchburg was part of a tour of several police agencies organized for the delegation by PH International and included retired Fitchburg Police Chief Edward Cronin, who has long worked with the international agency.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Patricia A. Marshall greeted the delegation and explained the police program’s goals of training future officers with a comprehensive educational background that includes human services, psychology and sociology. Its participants complete a comprehensive criminal justice curriculum in four years, followed by a 17-week academy that results in their certification to work in municipal police departments in Massachusetts and neighboring states. The sixth recruit officer course graduated on Friday, Sept. 15; all 11 of its members have already been hired by police departments.
Professor David Weiss talked about the evolution of the policing profession and the genesis of Fitchburg State’s police program. The model adopted at Fitchburg State more closely resembles how teachers and nurses are prepared for their careers, he explained. “When somebody wants to be a nurse, they don’t walk into a hospital and say, ‘Hire me,’” he said. “They go to university.”
Students from the university’s 7th recruit officer course (ROC) attended the visit and engaged in a lively discussion with their international guests in which they recounted their own paths to explore careers in public safety, and how their academic and skills training will serve them.
Class leader Jenna Morse, who will graduate in May and complete the academy next summer, said her interest in the profession grew from interactions with her own high school’s resource officer. She said the critical thinking skills she and her classmates are learning from their university studies will be helpful in her future career in public safety. Recruit officer Jordyn Gagliardi said her brother is a police officer in Western Massachusetts and his commitment to his community had inspired her to follow a similar path.
Recruit officer George Haddad cited the valuable coursework in human services and psychology he had taken, and how it would assist him in his work. Others said they anticipated teaching in their future as well, either during or after their police careers.
“In a way, you’re always going to be teaching as a police officer,” said fellow recruit officer Aidan Nemer.
Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest F. Martineau - who has hired several of Fitchburg State’s police program graduates - told international visitors he is a strong believer in the program. “We used to believe we could arrest our way out of every problem,” the 37-year veteran of law enforcement said. “Today, the current trend in policing is moving in the right direction. It begins with trust, it begins with transparency. It’s about creating relationships. With trust, positive things can happen.”
Fitchburg Police Lt. Jeffrey Howe explained his work with the department’s community engagement team and its efforts to build relationships with the city’s diverse populations, from schoolchildren to senior citizens.