Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced the launch of the Anacostia Public Safety Academy, an institution aimed at helping District of Columbia Public Schools high school students pursue a career in criminal justice, on Sept. 15.
In a joint press conference with DCPS, the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Police Foundation, Bowser explained that the academy will allow current Anacostia High School students to enroll at the University of the District of Columbia Community College’s MPD Cadet Program with six credits toward their high school degree. It will also guarantee students employment at the MPD while enrolled in the Cadet Program.
Bowser said the academy is a result of a citywide effort to connect the MPD and other District agencies with communities across the city. In this case, Bowser said she hopes to reach out to young adults in order to further connect them with their communities,
“Our city thrives when our public servants live in neighborhoods they serve and know the residents in those neighborhoods, and that’s especially true of the police department,” Bowser said during the press conference. “So that’s why I’m excited about the opportunity that this program brings.”
UDC-CC spokesperson John Gordon said being an active participant in the program was important to UDC-CC ever since the program was in its planning stages. Gordon said this support stemmed from UDC-CC’s goal of giving back to D.C. by providing education and workforce opportunities to residents across the District.
“We try to offer to the residents of the District a seamless pipeline to academics, starting with our non-degree certificate programs for workforce development on through associate degrees to bachelor’s degrees to graduate degrees,” Gordon said. “If there are those who are interested in a criminal justice kind of track, we want to help them get that here. We are a partner with the Mayor and the City Council, particularly in efforts to provide pathways to the middle class.”
DCPS Spokesperson Janae Hinson said the program is to help students gain professional opportunities both during and after high school as they pursue higher education and enter the workforce. Hinson emphasized the fact that this program will provide a stronger workforce in D.C.
“Our goal is for students to have better access to great career paths right here in Washington, DC,” Hinson wrote in an email to the Hoya. “Together, DCPS, MPD, and UDC put together a program that will ensure our students get real-world experience while in high school and a clear path to college and a high-wage career.”
Sixty-one Anacostia High School students will participate in the academy during the 2016-2017 school year. Students will be able to take specialized courses in law and criminal justice, as well as pursue internships and shadowing opportunities within the MPD.
MPD Interim Chief of Police Peter Newsham said these internships and shadowing opportunities are also coming at a critical time for the MPD, which needs to add new officers to its ranks. Newsham said the MPD is facing a so-called “retirement bubble,” during which officers who enlisted in the early 1990s are beginning to retire with no one to replace them.
“We are grateful that Anacostia High School has embraced this partnership that will undoubtedly be a tremendous success,” Newsham wrote in a Sept. 15 press release. “These students are taking the first step toward becoming the next generation of leaders at the Metropolitan Police Department.”
Meredith Barber (NHS ’19), who was raised in the D.C. suburb of Potomac, Md., said while this program sounds productive, local efforts could be better channeled to assist programs addressing community issues earlier than high school.
Barber cited the program Head Start, which is a United States Department of Health and Human Services program that provides early childhood education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.
“The wards are really segregated based on race and the achievement gap really starts around birth, basically,” Barber said. “So I think that’s a good program idea but they should also focus more on earlier programs like Head Start. Head Start is a good program but it doesn’t reach enough people.”