Interview with Appalachian State University Police Chief Andy Stephenson on Campus Police Academy

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Dr. Jonathon Hyde

March 9, 2019

Dean Hyde: Hello Chief Stephenson, what can you tell me about your background and what led you to come to ASU? 

Chief Stephenson: I am originally from Bloomington, Indiana. I began my law enforcement career in 1995 as a police cadet with the Indiana University Police Department. I graduated from the Indiana University Police Academy in 1996 and was hired as a full-time police officer at Indiana University in 1997. Along the way, I earned a bachelor's degree from Indiana University and a master's degree from Boston University. In 2017, I was the Captain of Operations at the Indiana University Police Department when I learned about the job opening at Appalachian State University. After researching Appalachian State, I was intrigued and began thinking that it would be a good fit for me and an opportunity to advance my career. My youngest son had just graduated high school and was off to college, so the timing was right from both personal and professional perspectives.

Dean Hyde: What gave you the idea to start a police academy on our campus? 

Chief Stephenson: As I mentioned, I am a graduate of the Indiana University Police Academy program, at the time the only one of its kind in the country, which began in 1972. Our Police Development Program concept is modeled after Indiana University's program. Like other areas of the country, NC has been impacted by a lack of police officer job applicants. In addition, the police department at Appalachian State lacked appropriate staffing to address the policing and security needs of a rapidly growing, major university. My entire law enforcement career had been at an agency where this concept was the norm, so I knew that this would benefit the police department, the university, students, etc.

 Fast facts about the ASU Police Academy:

  • Based off of a similar program begun at Indiana University
  • Started at ASU in May of 2018
  • 21 Graduates in the first class
  • 13 weeks of physical training

Located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, ASU is a public university and is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System.  ASU offers over 150 undergraduate and graduate majors and enrolls more than 19,000 students.    

Dean Hyde: What have been the biggest challenges getting it off the ground? 

Chief Stephenson: The administration at Appalachian State was very receptive to the idea, as many challenges could be addressed at minimal cost. Our transition was relatively seamless; however, our biggest challenge was likely explaining the details of this program and gaining support from our state's police officer training board.

Dean Hyde: What have been the biggest benefits of having a Police Academy?  For the university?  For Students?  For the community? 

Chief Stephenson: There are many benefits for the entire campus community. The police department benefits by increasing the number of sworn police officers and non-sworn security personnel at an affordable cost, which enables us to adequately staff large events on our campus without the need to hire officers from outside agencies. We are a much more diverse department as a result of implementing this program. The program is a source of pride among all of our employees. Our full-time police officers are benefiting as a result of an increased need for us to develop in-house subject matter experts who receive specialized training so that we can provide police academy instructors. Our student employees create a situation in which we are much more in tune with the safety and security needs of students on our campus. We have benefited from a community relations perspective by having many more opportunities to engage with students, faculty, and staff on campus.

Much like our police department, our program is a source of pride for the University. Appalachian State has become a leader in our state for police officer development. We now have the resources to provide the services that only outside security vendors could provide in the past. We have taken over security for our campus library, the school of health sciences, all auditorium events, campus housing, etc. This gives our campus departments and buildings security officers who are vetted by the University, who have received security related training, and who have direct radio communication with our public safety communications center. In addition, we're able to provide these improved services at a fraction of the cost.

Our program provides students who participate with an unprecedented job market advantage in criminal justice system careers. Students who participate in our program enter the job market with an Appalachian State University degree, NC police officer certification, 2 years of experience working for a police agency, and training credentials that most new police officers do not possess. 

Dean Hyde: Have you received any push back from any stakeholders as you worked to implement it?  How did you respond?

Chief Stephenson: We did not receive any negative feedback or push back during the implementation process.

Dean Hyde: How big is the Academy in terms of students and staff?

Chief Stephenson: We generally have approximately 25 police cadets and 25 part-time officers in our program at any given time. Our program is managed by a captain and all personnel fall under the leadership of our shift commanders and event supervisors when they're working on the campus.

Dean Hyde: What are the plans for the future?  Will it expand?

Chief Stephenson: As the University grows and demands regarding public safety increase, we will expand our program. The UNC System is currently considering expanding this program to include all UNC campuses. In addition, future plans could include a public safety training facility.

Goals of the Police Academy:

  • Provide an unprecedented job market advantage to students who participate in the program.
  • Increase the number of personnel employed by the Appalachian Police Department to assist with police and security coverage of the campus and the many large events that occur on campus.
  • Train and develop diverse, educated, well-trained police officers.
  • Expand and improve the relationships between App State Police and the greater community.

Dean Hyde: Are other law enforcement agencies in the state in support of your initiative? 

Chief Stephenson: We have received an outpouring of support from many agencies around the state. Other agencies are seeing this as an innovative approach to many law enforcement related issues. We have numerous requests from other agencies to allow them to conduct recruitment presentations for our student participants.

Dean Hyde: Lastly, any advice for other Leaders in Higher Education and Law Enforcement who want to create a police academy on their campus?

Chief Stephenson: This concept may not be feasible in all states, depending on their police officer certification governing boards, etc. Policing practices, particularly police officer training, is in need of reform and innovation. The profession needs to be capable of attracting more critical thinkers, leaders, and people from diverse backgrounds. Institutions of higher education and their resources must get involved if the profession is to be reshaped.

Thanks so much Chief Stephenson for answering questions about the police academy. I am hopeful we will see many NASPA members excited about the possibilities to implement a similar program at their institutions. If you are a student affairs professional or law enforcement professional working in higher education who would be interested in learning more, be sure to attend the Campus Safety & Violence Prevention Knowledge Community Sponsored Program: #59164 - Leaning Forward Toward Police Reform: An Innovative Approach to Leveraging Higher Education to Improve Policing on Campus and Beyond on Tuesday, March 12 (2:30 PM - 3:20 PM) Room/Venue: 303 AB - LA Convention Center! Both Chief Stephenson and I would be thrilled to see you there.

Dr. Jonathon Hyde

Associate Vice Chancellor & Dean of Students

Hyde, J. (2019, February, 8). Personal interview.

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