PAL held its first College Night to introduce cadets to local college programs specializing in law enforcement — and by all accounts, it was a big hit.
The event, held on January 13, 2011, focused on programs offered by the University of San Francisco and City College of San Francisco. Both colleges offer degrees in law enforcement leadership and criminal justice.
The night was hosted by Retired San Francisco Chief of Police Tony Ribera, who heads the Business and Professional Studies at USF. Ribera wrote the original curriculum for the school’s law enforcement leadership program.
Ribera described the gathering as “quite a good crowd,” and said about 50 cadets and their parents attended.
“We had very positive feedback — from the kids themselves and very positive from parents,” he said.
Ribera said there is currently a push at the San Francisco Police Department Police to get police cadets to enroll in the local law enforcement programs and thus foster a more highly educated police force.
Traditionally, many police officers skipped college and went right into the department after high school. Ribera said it was not unusual to find police officers in their 30s and 40s attending night school to make up for the college education they missed in their 20s.
But with such a wealth of law enforcement programs in the Bay Area, it makes sense for cadets to take advantage of the higher-education options first, and focus on a job once they have nailed a degree.
Ribera said there has been talk at the SFPD of creating a program similar to ROTC where cadets could go through a four-year program at City College and USF, get a bachelor’s degree, and then have an opportunity in law enforcement.
Dan Lawson, retired SFPD captain, now executive director/chief of USF police, told cadets there are three things they need to know: how to be a critical thinker, how to create positive relationships, and how to work collaboratively. Lawson is a former cadet and talked about how education helped him in his work.
Other speakers included SFPD Commander David Lazar, Captain Louis Cassanego (Ingleside station), Jim Connors, director of administration of justice for City College, and Carol Taylor, associate director of advising and outreach at USF.
Former PAL Cadet Captain Lizzie Perez found the event useful and inspirational. “I took that in, when I was there and listening to them, a light bulb went off. That’s what I need to do to get into USF and hopefully eventually the SFPD. I’ve already contacted a City College counselor.”
Said Perez, “I didn’t know what my options were before. Now I know what I need do.”
PAL Executive Director Lorraine Woodruff-Long said the cadets received good advice not only on the importance of college before a career in law enforcement, but also on the importance of ongoing education.
The City College and USF program have been running for many years, but Ribera said cadets are not always aware of them. The College Night is one way to increase awareness.
PAL hopes to make the College Night an annual event.