Dr. Quentin Johnson: Appreciation for Law Enforcement Officials

Published 7:04 pm Sunday, January 21, 2024

Communities across the country participated in National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day on January 9. Although the observance sets aside a specific day to express gratitude to law enforcement personnel, these public servants deserve recognition all year long. Law enforcement personnel are a crucial component of what is required to keep our neighborhoods safe. They are frequently a community’s only full-time professional first responders. They safeguard the innocent and stand against criminal activity. They help keep the peace in times of crisis.

The impetus behind the observance arose when a controversial police shooting led to unrest in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. In the wake of negative media attention concerning police actions, C.O.P.S. (Concerns of Police Survivors) and several other organizations dedicated to the support of law enforcement officials felt it necessary to promote positive stories. They advocated an observance dedicated to showing gratitude for police efforts and expressing an understanding of the difficulties that surround split-second decision-making processes under life-threatening stresses.

Since that time, other high-profile tragedies have exacerbated a negative stereotype of police officers in some minds. National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day serves to remind people that the nearly one million men and women serving as public safety officers in the United States routinely make personal sacrifices, exhibit courage, and take on risks in order to protect their communities.

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As the need to focus on positive solutions became urgent, the Virginia Community College System asked that I chair a task force to review the law enforcement curricula offered across our community college system. Based on that work, courses have been modified to focus on the important relationships between law enforcement personnel and the communities they serve. Additionally, components have been incorporated to build students’ understanding of cultural competency.

According to Dr. Alfonzo Seward, Lead Instructor in SVCC’s Criminal Justice program, “The Criminal Justice program is built around core courses that provide practical knowledge, information about the causes of crime and delinquency, and an understanding of ethical issues. This combination of topics helps prepare future law enforcement members to face the challenges inherent in a career that may require them to put their lives on the line to protect others.”

SVCC offers two distinct pathways for students seeking to embark on a career in law enforcement and related professions. The two-year Criminal Justice AAS program prepares students for careers in criminal justice agencies and can satisfy transfer requirements for students who plan to pursue a related four-year program.

For students seeking a shorter path to immediate employment, the Criminal Justice Certificate program can be completed in two semesters. It provides training for individuals who plan to work in settings such as police departments and correctional facilities.

Students in these programs may be eligible for tuition assistance through Virginia’s G3 program, which serves residents who qualify for in-state tuition and meet low-income criteria. Approved programs fall into targeted, high-demand career areas such as public safety. More information about G3 funding can be obtained from SVCC’s Student Services Department (student.services@southside.edu or 434-736-2022).

The brave men and women who choose careers in law enforcement stand on guard every day to protect our communities. The next time you see a police officer or other member of the justice community, remember to express your thanks for his or her commitment to public service.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.