After a period of reduced interest in prospective officers joining law enforcement ranks, the MTSU Police Department has attracted and brought on nine new officers over the past year and worked hard to support them through the rigorous onboarding process.
“It takes around nine months for a new hire to go from the first day to working solo on patrol,” said Lt. Jacob Wagner who heads up training at the department along with Sgt. Jason Hurley.
“It’s a long and rigorous process,” Hurley said, “so as a department and in the wake of hiring shortages, we have really tried to finetune our training protocol and environment to prepare and support individuals that are taking on this job and provide them with the tools they need to be successful.”
Even before attending the 12-week Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy located in Nashville off Lebanon Pike, MTSU Police new hires take on a six-week administrative phase of in-house training with their True Blue colleagues.
“Sgt. Hurley and I have really tweaked this phase to provide detailed and specific training in areas that will best prepare them for the police academy and eventually when they return to us,” Wagner said.
The training department focused on enhancing the physical, mental and emotional preparation of their newest officers.
“We added an hour of daily physical fitness training to help them feel more confident taking on the academy’s demanding running and calisthenics that can push recruits to their physical limits and even lead to injury,” Hurley said.
Next, the department gets recruits familiar with the academic material they will be taught and assessed on at the academy.
“They take 10 hours of class a day for a total of about 480 hours of learning, and we want to make sure the academy isn’t the first time they encounter this information,” Wagner said.
Hurley and Wagner then prioritized creating a support network the recruits could lean on when the going got tough.
“We made sure to have lunch together, so we could laugh or share a little about our lives outside of work,” Hurley said. “It’s also a chance for the recruits to form a bond between themselves before going to the academy together.”
Once the recruits head off to the academy, Wagner and Hurley meet with them weekly.
“They show up full of stories from the week,” Wagner said. “We can give them advice and encouragement. It seems like a good outlet for them, and it’s also reinvigorating for us to see this new energy coming into our department.”
The department’s latest group of recruits celebrated their academy graduation on campus at Tucker Theater at the end of December with many MTSU Police staff in attendance.
One of these graduates, Tristan Slater, originally from Ontario, Canada, said the department’s support gave him confidence going into the academy.
“I believe that I came in more prepared than (recruits from) other departments because of the training that has been provided to us to prepare for the training academy,” Slater said. “I would highly recommend people to apply for MTSU PD because they provide great training, and everyone here is always willing to help.”
Another graduate, Lealand Wood from Clarksville, Tennessee, said the department has been like a family.
“The training staff ask us how we’re doing, if they can do anything to help us,” Wood said. “They’ve been great with that. Everyone else (here) who has been through the academy … has given us words of encouragement. Everyone here has treated us wonderfully.”
Andrew Bradham, originally from Collierville, Tennessee, wraps up his total training next month and said his favorite part of the experience has been the staff.
“All of the training staff is super easy to get along with, and they have taught me so much,” Bradham said. “This department will do its best to take care of you as an officer and as a person. The training I have received here has been fantastic, and I have had experiences here that are not available at other agencies.”
MTSU Police is still hiring for entry-level officers. For more information, visit the MTSU jobs website at https://www.mtsu.edu/jobs.php.
The department currently consists of 36 commissioned police officers, six full-time dispatchers, approximately 20 part-time student workers, plus full-time administrative staff. The department is led by Chief Edwin “Ed” Kaup, who took command in August.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)