WKUPD prepares for Police Leadership Academy

Elliott Pratt

The WKU Police Department will hold a WKU Police Leadership Academy July 21-26. The academy is designed for students ages 16 to 21 looking for a career in law enforcement wanting to expand their leadership skills.

Academy participants will have the opportunity to work along side the WKU police department in the week long course to prepare students to develop decision making and leadership skills.

Captain John Bailey said the week long program is geared to other leadership areas outside of law enforcement.

“We are making it a little more versatile to a team building atmosphere instead of more oriented to policing,” Bailey said. “Of course, (policing) is one of the focuses of it, but there’s other people that may attend that may need an additional drive in the development of a leadership mentality.”

Participants will engage in building checks/searches, firearm safety courses, high risk traffic stop exercises, physical fitness training, and many leadership activities.

Bailey said the program will teach the fundamentals of leadership and accept students in current vocations such as class president.

“What we have to do is start thinking out of the box and not look for strictly law enforcement, but set up the program to segway to different paths if need be,” Bailey said.“

Major Joe Harbaugh said personal communication is one of the biggest lessons taught at the academy.

“One of the issues we kept seeing on the Explorer Post was that they truly didn’t have a good idea what it meant to be a true law enforcement, and one of the skills they lacked was communication,” Harbaugh said. “They didn’t talk to each other. They were texting and burning their phones up. They didn’t understand how to live without those things. We have developed a program that forces kids to learn how to communicate with each other.”

When the academy began six years ago, it was originally meant for Explorer Post 825 to help those students in particular expand their law enforcement knowledge and experience.

Sgt. Ben Craig was apart of the first academy as a part of the explorers and played football for WKU. He now finds himself contributing to mentoring in the program. Craig had grown up around law enforcement his whole life with his mother working at the Shelby County Detention Center. He said the academy and a ride-along one night helped to solidify his decision to make policing his career.

“We try push the leadership qualities from mentoring to even some fun activities like paint ball,” Craig said. “I remember doing a ride-along one night and the officer made a DUI stop and did the field sobriety test and after that I decided it was what I really want to do.”

Craig said juggling the academy and his summer schedule playing football didn’t allow him to go through the program for the entire week. The academy starts around 5 a.m. and runs until late at night.

Harbaugh said the academy is extremely strenuous and not everyone makes it to the end of the week.

“We’ve asked people to leave, we’ve sent people home, and some people have quit,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not an easy thing. For that week, they really get a lot of exposure to what real law enforcement is like. If you violate the rules, if you don’t listen or participate, we pull you out.”

Harbaugh said if a student doesn’t make it through the week, they receive a refund on their tuition cost for the academy.

“It’s just a clean way to say it’s a part of leadership,” Harbaugh said. “If you can’t meet the standard, we don’t need you here and we don’t need your money. It’s not about your money, it’s about your development.”