The 47th class of the IU Cadet Officer Program graduated 45 new officers Aug. 14 after training during the coronavirus pandemic, which meant taking online academic classes and learning tactical skills while maintaining social distance.
Maj. Stephen Luce, director of public safety education at the IU Police Academy, said this class received the same amount of training as ones before.
“They got the same amount of hours and in some topics they got more training in those specific areas,” Luce said. “I don’t think they’re going to be any worse off or better off than anybody that went through this program before.”
The cadet program started in 1972 and is a two-year program that allows IU students to train to become a part-time police officer for IUPD. Students apply to be a cadet their sophomore year, work as a cadet their junior year with no legal authority, then go through IUPA the summer before their senior year.
“We had to completely revamp our model of how we wanted to do this, and there was actually a point where, at the midnight hour, we had to decide if we wanted to proceed with this academy or cancel it,” Luce said. “The uphill battle was just the logistics of, within about 60 days, turning this thing around, coming up with online curriculum, online student access, completely starting from scratch.”
Of the 14 weeks of academy training, the first five were full of hybrid classes where no more than five people were socially distant and wearing masks in classrooms, including instructors that held the cadets accountable. These first five weeks consisted of personalized physical training and a focus on putting academics first to have more time later in the summer for tactical training.
“You can’t teach firearms, you can’t teach emergency vehicle driving over Zoom, so there came a point where we had to be in person,” Luce said.
The full cadet class moved to the Whittenberger Auditorium in the Indiana Memorial Union at the start of the fifth week to continue their academics. During this time, the death of George Floyd occurred, which Luce said was a pertinent and familiar topic of discussion with the cadets.
“A lot of these topics that are being talked about right now — racism and the bias and all the social unrest — we have had classes within our academy for years on these topics,” Luce said. “The fact that they saw that play out before their eyes while in training, it made them realize they have an opportunity to go change the pulse of law enforcement nationally.”
The cadets spent the last five weeks of the academy learning tactical skills such as firearm practice, driving and use-of-force training while remaining socially distant. Senior Remi Musselman said she thinks this will help them do their jobs in the immediate future.
“We got used to interacting with people 6 feet away anyway, so that’s just the training that we’ve had this whole time,” Musselman said. “Having done our training all like that, I feel like the social distance aspect of it won’t be as weird as I think it was for a lot of the officers coming from their normal routine.”
With the fall semester starting, Luce and his associates are already beginning to plan for the 48th class of cadets. Musselman and senior Gunnar Ortlieb are two of the recent graduates that will begin their part-time IUPD positions patrolling campus and the dorms. Ortlieb said not only is he both excited and anxious to work as a police officer, but this is only the beginning of his training.
“We are more than prepared to put a best foot forward and leverage our more experienced officers and be able to do so in a way that gets us additional experience but also provides an asset to the police department and the university,” Ortlieb said.