Ohio’s Law Enforcement Pathway Program put on hold

Pictured is Gov. Mike DeWine announcing the College to Law Enforcement Pathway Program in 2021. Photo courtesy of Ohio.gov.

Martín Oti Figueroa | Contributing Writer

Uncertainty hangs over the state’s College to Law Enforcement Pathway Program (CLEPP), once hailed as a beacon of hope for aspiring officers, because the program has been suspended. 

The CLEPP is an initiative introduced in 2020 by Gov. Mike DeWine. Its goal was to identify high-performing college students interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement. 

The program is designed to address challenges faced by law enforcement agencies in recruiting and retaining qualified officers, particularly amid declining interest in law enforcement careers and increasing demands for diversity within police departments. 

The CLEPP partners with institutions of higher education in Ohio, such as Cedarville University and Central State University, to provide specialized training and mentorship opportunities for criminal justice students. Through the program, students are paired with law enforcement mentors who help develop their leadership skills and prepare them for careers in law enforcement. 

A key feature of the CLEPP is its guarantee of a job with a partnering law enforcement agency upon graduation. 

One example is Taylor Smart, who graduated the CLEPP through Cedarville University in 2022. After graduation, the CLEPP was able to place her with the Beavercreek Police Department. 

Other law enforcement agencies that are or were participating included police departments in Dublin, Fairfield Township, Fairview Park, Lancaster, Lebanon, Reynoldsburg, West Chester, and Xenia; the Franklin County Sherriff’s Office, Ohio State Highway Patrol, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The pause in the program caught the attention of both universities and police departments, leading to questions and worries about what it could mean for them. With enrollment paused and no current students in the program, the once-promising initiative now stands at a crossroads, its fate uncertain. 

Misty D. Waller, director of Law Enforcement Recruitment at the Ohio Department of Public Safety, confirmed the suspension.

 “The College to Law Enforcement Pathway Program is currently on hold,” she said in an interview in late January. “There are no current students enrolled in the program.” 

As she started her position in November 2023, she was not certain why the program was on hold.

“For the program that ran, it had a total of 11 students,” Waller said, noting that she found herself dealing with a program that was still facing issues, potentially enrollment issues, when she joined the program. 

The program’s suspension has broader implications for Ohio’s law enforcement sector, raising questions about the state’s ability to recruit and retained qualified officers. With demand for law enforcement careers on the decline and challenges in attracting diverse candidates, the program’s hiatus underscores the urgent need for innovative solutions. 

For more coverage on police academy training, check out Dayton Daily News’ coverage on Sinclair Police Academy here. Where it sent one of its reporters through training at Sinclair.

For more coverage on the police officer shortage across America, check out this reporting from AP.

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