Murray State University awards Paducah law enforcement with cultural awareness certificates


MURRAY, Ky. — On Sept. 28, 2017, members of the Paducah Police Department and the Murray State University College of Education and Human Services gathered at Murray State’s regional campus in Paducah for the second annual certificate ceremony of the Cultural Leadership Academy, which was developed as a professional development opportunity to provide officers with advanced training centered around diversity awareness.


At the recent ceremony, the second cohort of the Cultural Leadership Academy received certificates for successful completion of the program. These individuals from the Paducah Police Department included Sgt. Nathan Antonites, Sgt. Chris Bolton, Officer Chelsee Breakfield, Detective Justin Hodges, Officer Matt Hopp, Officer Matthew Jones and Capt. Matthew Smith.


The Cultural Leadership Academy operates as a stackable credentials model whereby officers who successfully complete the program may move forward to pursue University credit. Those credit hours may then be applied toward either a bachelor’s or master’s degree.


The program’s roots date back to December 2014 when Paducah’s Assistant Chief of Police Brian Krueger recognized the need for such a program following media coverage of the incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, and other related events. Krueger reached out to the College of Education and Human Services for training to help officers develop leadership competency in working with multicultural communities.


“For law enforcement in Kentucky,” explained Krueger, “the question became: ‘What could the content be for an educational platform that focused on improving the understanding of our community and the outcomes of day-to-day, street-level encounters for our officers?’”


An advisory council was formed in the spring of 2015 including faculty from Murray State’s department of educational studies, leadership and counseling, who began meeting with members of the Paducah Police Department.


Dr. Teresa Clark, assistant professor, assumed the lead on this endeavor due to her experience with competency-based education and prior learning assessment. She partnered with Dr. Landon Clark, coordinator for the University’s human development and leadership program, and the two faculty members maintained continuous communication with Paducah police throughout the academy’s development process.


After a year of preparation, the academy began a pilot in April 2016 with its first cohort of seven participants. The program consists of four modules — two occurring in April and two during September. These intensive training sessions were held Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and consisted of a combination of lectures, inventories, case studies, discussions and more.


Each of the first seven participants completed all four modules of the program and were presented with a certificate in September 2016. Of this initial group, one officer has been accepted to the Master of Science in Human Development and Leadership program at Murray State and another officer has been admitted to the University’s Bachelor of Integrated Studies program.


“The Paducah Police Department has continued its commitment to developing cultural competency among its members,” Clark said. “At a time when law enforcement, as a field, is experiencing increased scrutiny, it is commendable to proactively prepare officers with soft-skills training in areas such as leadership and communication when interacting with the community.”


News of the Cultural Leadership Academy spread nationally last year when the Associated Press picked up a local story, which was ultimately run by approximately 40 news outlets across the country. Since then, the story has generated interest from other law enforcement agencies.


To learn more about the Cultural Leadership Academy and how your local agencies may participate, contact Dr. Teresa Clark at 270-809-6956.

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