UComm's Emily Bausch welcome's Appalachian State Police Chief Andy Stephenson, Capt. K.C. Mitchell and cadet Abigail Rivera. The group discusses background on the Appalachian Police Development Program and what cadets get to experience.
Emily Bausch: Hey App State. I'm Emily Bausch with University Communications and I'd like to welcome you to FYI, a podcast that fills you in on the programming and activities around campus and the haps around App. Today I'll be introducing you to some pretty amazing people, while giving you all the details about an inspiring program that's only available to you as an App State student. So, if you're thinking about a career in policing, exploring public service or setting yourself apart as a job seeker, then you definitely want to listen up. We're talking about the Appalachian Police Development Program here today. And this episode is dedicated to this program because there's only one like it in the Southeast, and it's only available here at App State. The Appalachian State Police Department is accepting applications now, and this program is going to prepare students to become police officers while they earn their degrees. And participating doesn't cost you anything above your regular tuition. So, this is a heck of a way to get practical experience before you graduate. You can work part time while you earn your degree with App and get connected to your community. And eventually, maybe also become a certified North Carolina police officer while you are in the program. So, what do you want your future public services to become? Get involved and help shape them. App State, what do you think policing as a career path would look like? What could it do for your future? And what if you could explore these questions right now while you're earning your degree? So let me introduce you to our guests here today that have brought this opportunity to you and they can help you learn more, and even more importantly, they're going to inspire you. With us in the podcast studio today is our director of public safety and chief of police, Andy Stephenson, with the Appalachian Police Department, and Captain K.C. Mitchell, who's the director of the Police Officer Development Program, and police cadet Abigail Rivera, who is majoring in criminal justice. She's in her junior year with App State. She's one of the first cadets in the program. Chief Stephenson is the guy with the vision that started this program at Appalachian State and Captain Mitchell is the guy you might find yourself working with one day if you were to enter the program. So chief, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and about where the Police Officer Development Program concept started for App State?
Andy Stephenson: I have been at App State since June of 2017, retired in Indiana as a police officer in Indiana. I came here from Indiana University, which is a campus of 50,000 students. The concept for this program actually started in 1972 at Indiana University. I worked at Indiana University for over 20 years and I am a graduate of Indiana University's Police Academy Class of 1996. So, I've got a lot of background and experience with this program. Again, I was a member of it, and I managed it for a few years, and I wanted to bring this concept to App State.
Emily Bausch: Awesome. So, I'm going to circle over. Captain Mitchell … this is some of the meat and potatoes. Tell us a little bit more about yourself and what the cadets are going to have the opportunity to do in the program.
K.C. Mitchell: This is my 11th year at Appalachian State and my 23rd year in law enforcement. So, I'm the director of the Police Development Program, and I'm over the cadets as well as the part-time officers that are part of the program. As cadets, we hire them the fall prior to their junior year, theoretically, and they attend training, about 80 hours of training, while they're cadets. They'll obtain training throughout the year in things such as first aid, CPR, dealing with victims in the public. They work in nonsworn security positions, library security … sometimes they'll do Schafer Center events, concerts, things like that. After that year, they attend the Appalachian State Police Academy, which is our program here. They attend that during the summer. Provided they pass all the training, they become certified North Carolina police officers.
Emily Bausch: Sounds great. So, cadet Rivera, I'm going to circle over to you. We want to hear more about your experience in the program, especially since you've been one of the first.
Abigail Rivera: Oh, thank you, first, for having me here. I really do appreciate it. I first worked at the police department for my work-study. I was a receptionist. I still am, currently. And Chief Stephenson gave me the idea of this plan that he was making, the Police Development Program, and, you know, giving me information about it. And I was really intrigued, because I think as college students we come here to get education, to get our bachelor’s, or, for graduate students, it’s your master’s, to get a job. And for myself, I really want to do law enforcement in the future. With this program, it’s given me the opportunity to not only get my bachelor’s in criminal justice but also graduate with experience already within, like, the field.
Emily Bausch: Exactly. Awesome. So, where do you see the program taking you in your career?
Abigail Rivera: Careerwise, it's going to allow me to have an advantage over other candidates for future employers when I apply. I am going to be able to not only like I said provide my education, higher education, with my bachelor's, but also have two years of experience — a year as a cadet with campus security here on this campus, but also as a certified police officer.
Emily Bausch: Awesome. What kinds of stuff, like activities and things like that, like, what do you get to do in the program?
Abigail Rivera: We get to do a lot of fun stuff. One of my personal favorites has been working the football games. So, before being in the Police Development Program as an App State student, I would always go to the game, enjoy the game, tailgate, and then go to the game and afterwards go back to my dorm. But I never really thought about what it took behind the scenes, like securitywise, maintaining people not only within the stadium safe, but also tailgating, traffic and what it took, what it takes to actually keep this campus safe. And I think it was really cool for myself to be part of that and being able to see firsthand what's going on. One of my favorite experiences that happened at a football game was I met a Latino family, and I … they seem to be first-generation students when I first talked to them. It was their first time. They seemed lost. They were on Duck Pond Field and I'm pretty sure they were looking for the stadium. And so, I stepped in, in uniform and everything, and I talked to them in my first language, which is Spanish, and just seeing them look at me and say, like, their — I could see in their faces they seemed very relaxed and saying, “Oh, OK.” Like, they needed help to find a dorm for one of their freshmen students that was there. And being able to provide that help and service and guide them, it was very, for me, myself, I felt very, like, happy and proud I was part of this program because I was able to help this family.
Emily Bausch: Yeah. That's really inspiring. What would you tell another App State student that's thinking about applying?
Abigail Rivera: I’d say go for it. One thing that I really love about this program, it's that you don't have to solely be a criminal justice major. It's open to all majors, and I feel that it will bring that diverse perspective to the program and to the future cadet classes. You know, having that open mind and having opinions, you know, I think that will make this department and also future cadet classes be more aware of what's going on on campus and what they could do further on.
Emily Bausch: Awesome. What interests you specifically about policing?
Abigail Rivera: The reason why I'm choosing to pursue a career in law enforcement, it's because I do believe that there should be more diversity in law enforcement. Everything that's going now currently with the political climate, what's going on in minority communities. I am a person that I like to act upon things when I see that something is going wrong. I don't like to sit on the sidelines and just opinionate, because if I have the opportunity, like for example, this Police Development Program, I have the opportunity to be part of this department and speak some of the things that are going on on campus and actually bring awareness to them. You know, because like I said, this is just a program that allows you to have the opportunity to speak up and also do something as well. And for me, I think further down the line when I pursue a career in law enforcement, I want to be in a position where I'm able to bring change, not only to minority communities but also within the law enforcement field.
Emily Bausch: Awesome. That is so inspiring. Is there anything else that you want to tell us about or tell students about who are interested?
Abigail Rivera: The uniform’s really nice. Yeah. And I think it's a great program, and you get a lot of money — as a college student, I think that's important, you know. It’s, yeah, so, financially they help you out. You're also able to work, not just Schafer Center events, football games, but also Safe Ride and making those connections with students and self, you know, letting them know that behind the uniform there is that somebody, you know. And so, and it's really awesome to walk on campus and see people like, “Oh, like I saw her doing Safe Ride” and “Oh, she's really cool.” No, no, it's OK. Like, I don't know. To me, I think that's, that's one of my favorite things. Just being able to build relationships with other students here.
Emily Bausch: Yeah, there's great connection possibilities there. Captain Mitchell. So, if students want to apply, what do they need to know and what do they need to do?
K.C. Mitchell: The application is through Handshake on the employment website. Uh, they can reach out to me, specifically. I have all the information for them. Um, it's pretty simple.
Emily Bausch: Awesome. I'm going to bring us home. FYI App — this is a program that's only available to you, and it can give you the experience and training while you earn your degree with App State and work part time. There's no other students in North Carolina that are going to have this opportunity. So, explore what a career in policing could be and do it right here at App. For more information, be sure to check out police.appstate.edu or you can also reach out to Captain Mitchell at Mitchell with two L’s at appstate.edu. Applications are accepted through Handshake, but be sure to reach out to Captain Mitchell if you have any questions about applying. The deadline to apply is coming up quick on February 28th, 2019, and applications are only accepted once a year. You can also check out App State’s Facebook and Twitter pages to stay up to date on their programs and activities around campus and get updates about the Police Officer Development Program. So, thank you everyone for coming today.
K.C. Mitchell: Thanks, Emily.
Abigail Rivera: Thank you so much for having us.
Andy Stephenson: Thank you, Emily. We appreciate being here.
Emily Bausch: And thanks for listening today. You can subscribe to FYI to learn more about App State programming and what's going on around campus, and check out additional podcasts at appalachianmagazine.org/podcasts.