Agreement will help Blugolds begin law enforcement careers more quickly

| Judy Berthiaume

A new agreement between two Chippewa Valley higher education institutions will help UW-Eau Claire students who are planning careers in law enforcement in Wisconsin get into the workforce more quickly.

UW-Eau Claire criminal justice majors who have completed at least 60 college credits now can apply to earn certification through the Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Law Enforcement Academy.

The 19 credits they earn at CVTC can transfer back to UW-Eau Claire, allowing students to secure the required academy certification while still making it possible for the Blugolds to graduate in four years.

“This is a great opportunity for our students who are interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement,” said Dr. Jason Spraitz, program coordinator and associate professor of criminal justice. “It will shorten the amount of time it takes for them to begin their careers and, likely, make them more attractive job candidates.

“UW-Eau Claire and CVTC are both very good at what we do, so it makes sense for us to work together to strengthen an already strong law enforcement community in the area.”

Under the new partnership agreement, Blugolds can complete the CVTC academy anytime during their junior or senior year, after they have earned 60 credits.

While completing the academy, they will remain UW-Eau Claire students but will not take any UW-Eau Claire courses during that semester.

“This agreement will help us provide consistency in training throughout the region,” said Rob Teuteberg, an instructor at the CVTC Law Enforcement Academy. “We have both UW-Eau Claire and CVTC criminal justice program students attend the academy, as well as students from other schools. The academy brings their education in the criminal justice field together into practical training for certified law enforcement officers. This agreement not only strengthens our ties with UW-Eau Claire, it strengthens relationships between the CVTC Law Enforcement Academy and law enforcement agencies throughout the region.”

The new agreement is great news for law enforcement agencies throughout Wisconsin because it will help agencies fill critical positions in a timely and affordable manner, says Kyle Roder, a 2003 UW-Eau Claire criminal justice graduate who currently serves as the public information officer for the Eau Claire Police Department.

“Many law enforcement agencies do not have the manpower and budget to hire and wait until the new hire completes an 18-week recruit class, followed by an internal field training program,” Roder says. “While the Eau Claire Police Department is large enough that it can hire new officers before they complete the recruit training, doing so puts a significant void in our patrol resources during that time.”

Wisconsin requires law enforcement officers to have a minimum of 60 college credits, followed by successful completion of the 720-hour law enforcement academy, to be licensed.

Agencies throughout the state, other than the Milwaukee and Madison police departments, look to technical colleges — including CVTC — to run academy programs that result in the certification.

Spraitz says that both UW-Eau Claire and CVTC play important roles in preparing students for successful careers in the field of criminal justice, including in the Chippewa Valley.

“Our goal at UWEC is to provide a broad-based educational experience that builds on our students’ analytical and critical thinking skills as well as their oral and written communication skills,” Spraitz says. “The CVTC academy provides training on the applied and experiential techniques that will serve students well in their future careers.”

Having two important partners — UW-Eau Claire and CVTC — work together to ensure future law enforcement officials gain the knowledge and skills they need in a timely manner will benefit communities across the state, Roder says.

“The best police officers are well-rounded and can adapt to dynamic situations quickly,” says Roder. “Law enforcement is a unique profession that requires an officer to have knowledge in a vast variety of areas, which are often college majors in of themselves.

“The advantage of attending a four-year bachelor’s degree program is that students learn about topics outside of the targeted field of study. Knowledge gained in these peripheral courses undoubtedly comes in handy at some point the officer’s career. We hire the best candidates, with the best attributes that fit our community, and many of those attributes are developed through an extended college program.”

Since the university’s criminal justice majors are committed students who are anxious to pursue a variety of careers, including careers in law enforcement, many will likely embrace the new opportunity offered through the partnership agreement, Spraitz says.

“The students come to class ready to learn and, for the most part, are passionate about taking advantage of opportunities that UWEC provides for them so that they can position themselves to succeed once they graduate,” Spraitz said.

UW-Eau Claire’s criminal justice graduates already are in demand and highly successful in their law enforcement careers, with many opting to work in agencies in the Chippewa Valley, Spraitz said.

About 25 percent of Eau Claire Police Department officers are Blugolds, and many other alumni work for the UW-Eau Claire Police, sheriff’s departments in Eau Claire and Chippewa counties, or the Wisconsin State Patrol, he says.

Giving students the opportunity to graduate in four years with their baccalaureate degree and their state law enforcement certification will make them more attractive job candidates, Spraitz says.

That, he says, is good for Wisconsin and the Chippewa Valley.

“Our students and alumni know the region and they inhabit the values of the region, which is why we’re so pleased whenever one of our graduates chooses to stay in the area and build their law enforcement career,” Spraitz said.

“Speaking only for myself, I take great pride any time I see my former students at their swearing-in ceremonies or when I see them on the job at various community events. I like to think this partnership will help even more students pursue their dreams.”

Photo caption: Sgt. Chris Kirchman of the UW-Eau Claire Police Department talks with first-year students during fall 2017 Welcome Week activities on the campus mall. Kirchman is a 1992 UW-Eau Claire criminal justice graduate who also earned certification through the Chippewa Valley Technical College's Law Enforcement Academy.