The Dallas Morning News on creating a West Point for cops:

It’s been a year and a half since the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer sparked national protests and a broad, sustained call for police reform. Yet, many of the reform ideas pushed forward have stalled and will likely never advance for a simple reason: What’s really needed is sound leadership in the ranks and in the top-brass of our police departments, and that’s nearly impossible to force into practice through the policy arena.

Fortunately, we do have a model for driving systemic change that would build and even strengthen the leadership of inspired and moral leaders, many of whom are already in the police ranks, while draining away bad leadership and bad leaders in the process. And this model wouldn’t undercut the ability of average police officers to do their jobs. Nor would it require tens of billions of dollars of new expense.

What we should do is build a National Police Service University based on the model of our national military service academies of West Point and Annapolis as well as the Air Force and the Coast Guard academies.

There are actually a lot of military-based universities in the United States. From Norwich University in Vermont to the Virginia Military Institute and many others, a broad range of public and private universities are dedicated to turning out a high-caliber military officer corps. Many of these universities already feed into the ranks of police departments across the country.

But the federal government could significantly ramp up leadership training and, therefore, the leadership ranks of police departments across the country if it creates a new central training point for others to emulate and measure themselves against.

The beauty of a four-year university type setting for such a service academy can be found now at West Point and our other national service academies. Each has its own unique traditions, policies and curriculum. But broadly speaking, each engages a program that uses physical rigor to test the body and mind of its next generation of leaders. It then employs four years of academic study that recognizes how math and engineering training can broaden the mind and how the humanities can sharpen a person to make sound, moral and inspired decisions.

By the end of this process, those who graduate have a solid, moral grounding and a strong network of leaders to draw from as they build their own careers. The Long Gray Line of West Point (and the long history of the other academies) has been a quiet and powerful force in forging the leadership class of our professional military.

Not every military officer has attended a national service academy, but the culture and the ethics of those institutions have had and will continue to have a profound and dramatic effect on our military’s culture.

The same would be true if we created a prestigious national police service academy. Graduates would go on to serve in police departments across the country after meeting state licensing standards. Over time, a disproportionate number of them would rise up the ranks and become chiefs in departments big and small. As they did they would carry with them what they learned at the service academy and be able to draw on a network of other officers also rising up the ranks.

What’s more, creating such a national police service academy would make it easier to develop and offer as a model the full range of skills and development programs needed to forge the leaders we need in our squad cars and at the heads of various teams of our police departments. Key skills such as the proper use of force, as well firearms and other training would be key features of the curriculum at such a university. But practical skills would only be one component. Such an academy would also include other intellectual rigor that can only come from studying history, literature, economics as well as math and science.

And finally, such an academy could go on to offer graduate programs and degrees that could range from two-week-long intensive executive programs to full-time master and doctoral degrees. A national police service academy might even go on to offer MBAs and law degrees. But the main aim would be to make it a research institution that had a culture of strong ethics and serious intellectual training that would prepare the leaders of the future of the stressful and dynamic career of performing a key function of our society — ensuring public safety.

This is a new idea that we have not heard anyone propose. And we’d go further to say that there would be no better place for such a university than North Texas, where many military veterans live and where rapid population growth as well as our social history makes us a key testing ground for many of the challenges facing our society today. But regardless of where it is built, such an approach could have a profound effect over time that would be constructive and help ensure that we are forging the right culture and supporting strong leadership among many already in the ranks.

If we are looking for systemic change, a national police service academy is one way to forge that change. We hope Congress considers the idea and gives us a West Point for police officers.

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