Opinion: Why not create a national U.S. police academy

Students at Korean National Police University, which awards four-year college degrees to graduates in exchange for four years' service as police officers.

Credit: Korean National Police University

Credit: Korean National Police University

Students at Korean National Police University, which awards four-year college degrees to graduates in exchange for four years' service as police officers.

Police reform requires professionalization of the occupation which requires attracting the best and brightest young people to the profession. One step toward this goal would be to create a national police academy modeled after the Korean National Police University (K.N.P.U.) located in Asan, South Korea.

K.N.P.U. is like our own military academies -- the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy. However, instead of training college students for a career in military service, K.N.P.U. prepares undergraduates for a career in police service after graduation. A degree from K.N.P.U. is equivalent academically to our bachelor of arts in criminal justice, but it is much more than our own requirements for a criminal justice degree.

Approximately 2,000 students apply each year for the 100 slots available in the freshman class at K.N.P.U. Acceptance to K.N.P.U. is considered a very prestigious college placement in South Korea. Applicants must excel academically and physically in their high school senior class. If accepted to K.N.P.U., students are provided a full 4-year scholarship which includes tuition, books, room, meals and uniforms. Students are required to wear uniforms to class and assemblies.

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After graduation, students must give at least 4 years of service back to their country as police officers. Many graduates will make police service their career, and others will go on to graduate school, law school, or private enterprise after their service commitment.

Courses in psychology at K.N.P.U. emphasize mental illnesses which can impact criminal behavior. Computer sciences courses explore cyber and internet crimes. Science courses examine forensic evidence such as fingerprints, DNA and biometrics. Accounting courses address fraud and white-collar crimes. There are also required courses on police administration, criminal law and ethics. Students must master at least one foreign language.

When I lectured at K.N.P.U., all the students were fluent in English, however a few students did have trouble understanding my American Southern dialect. Students are required to excel in self-defense techniques and the use of firearms. Interestingly, students at K.N.P.U. are taught to aim below the waist to disable -- not kill -- the suspect. In our country, officers are trained to aim for a suspect’s torso.

The physical plant at K.N.P.U. meets the highest standards of our four-year colleges. The classrooms are high-tech. The gymnasium, pool, track and firing ranges are top caliber. The dorms and meals are outstanding. K.N.P.U. is not only prestigious for students, the university attracts top-quality professors and instructors and pays very good salaries to all the employees.

South Korea has the advantage of having one national police force for the students to enter upon graduation. In our country, we have hundreds and hundreds of different police agencies. If we were to establish a national police academy, we would need to allocate a certain number of scholarships for each state. Also, we could establish national police academies by region of the country -- for example, the United States National Police Academy at Atlanta.

A national police academy will not address all the concerns of police reform, and it could take many years of graduates returning to their home states before we see an impact on police culture. But if we are committed to attract bright young people to a career in military service, we should show the same commitment for police service in our communities.

J. Tom Morgan teaches criminal law courses and ethics to undergraduate students in the criminal justice department at Western Carolina University. He is a former district attorney of DeKalb County.