Paths to law enforcement career vary

The University offers classes that fill some of the requirements to be a police officer.

Elizabeth Cook

Ryan O’Hara is majoring in law, criminology and deviance, hoping to be a police officer some day.

O’Hara started at the University, but transferred to North Hennepin Community College after a year to get a degree in law enforcement. The degree is required to become eligible for Peace Officer Standards and Training licensing, which is required for all Minnesota police officers. There are exceptions for those with military experience.

O’Hara, now a University junior, is already certified to be a police officer, but said he wanted a four-year degree.

The University offers classes that fill some of the requirements to be a police officer. But students will have to transfer to one of the 21 other programs in Minnesota to fulfill all requirements, said Mary Bjornberg, assistant director for the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training.

When a student doesn’t have a degree, they need to earn one in either law enforcement or criminal justice through the Professional Peace Officer Education program.

The program is not offered at the University, but for students who want a four-year degree, they can take classes that will transfer into the program, said Ann Miller, the coordinator of undergraduate advising in the sociology department.

The program has two parts: four theory-based classes and one skills class.

The University does not offer these classes, but does offer almost all nine of the prerequisites, Miller said.

After completing the education program, a student is eligible for licensing. Once the person is hired by a law enforcement agency, he or she can get a license, Bjornberg said.

The other option a student has is to get a four- or two-year degree and then go onto the education program to become eligible for licensing.

O’Hara said he decided to come back to the University after the education program and his eligibility for licensing because he wants to be able to move up in the ranks as a police officer and one needs a bachelor’s degree to do so.

Kevin McCaskey, a 2005 graduate of the University, took a different route.

McCaskey said he earned a bachelor’s degree in law, criminology and deviance through the sociology department at the University before deciding to be a police officer.

He is a part-time student at Normandale Community College taking classes toward Professional Peace Officer Education, but next semester he is enrolled as a full-time student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College to finish the program.

Of the nine prerequisite classes, he has already completed seven at the University and now needs to complete his theory and skills courses.

Classes like patrol operations and traffic code aren’t offered at the University, McCaskey said.

But, McCaskey said, he doesn’t think it’s important for the University to offer these types of classes because that is what technical and community colleges are for.

In one year, McCaskey will be done with school and apply to be a police officer.

Some University police officers also attended school here, University Police Chief Greg Hestness said, including himself.

Hestness began attending the University in 1971. While going to school, he got a job with the Minneapolis Police Department where he attended an 18-week training to become a licensed police officer.

Hestness didn’t have to go through the Professional Peace Officer Education program because he was grandfathered in. The Peace Officer Standards and Training program wasn’t started until 1977, to set requirements and standards for police officers.