UT Law Enforcement Innovation Center to launch training program for rural law enforcement agencies

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With the help of federal tax dollars, rural police officers in our area may be able to take advantage of free, specialized, training. The University of Tennessee Law Enforcement Innovation Center plans to launch a training center, specifically geared toward agencies with fewer resources, this fall. The program aims to help agencies avoid any barriers to the resource, like travel expense or staffing shortages.

Courses will be offered in-person, at their Oak Ridge location, or through distance-based learning.

The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services awarded the UT LEIC $1.3 million. The grant is for a two-year period.

UT LEIC Executive Director Rick Scarbrough noted the federal grant dollars were critical in offering them at no cost to smaller agencies.

“Quite often they [rural law enforcement agencies] don’t have the training available, the resources available, for the training that’s needed today,” he said.

A news release from the center notes the training will focus on the development and testing of strategies, build knowledge about effective practices, and support new approaches to preventing crime and promoting safe communities. Some areas of study will include active shooter training, community policing, de-escalation, and school training.

Scarbrough said access to the specialized courses is critical. “Regardless of what community you’re from, you want more professional police officers. You want a department you can be proud of, that actually protects the quality of life and ensures the quality of life you’ve become accustomed to, so you can live in a safe neighborhood,” he said.

The center has also partnered with the museum of tolerance in Los Angeles, to form a curriculum and create a certification program for officers throughout Tennessee.

Scarbrough believes it could be a program used by men and women in uniform across the country. It will focus on cultural competency, specifically in the areas of diversity, critical decision making, ethics, mitigation of biased-based policing, and de-escalation.

The service will extend to rural areas outside Tennessee, including areas in Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky.

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