The graduation ceremony for IUPD cadets who successfully complete the rigorous Indiana University Police Academy is always satisfying for Major Nick Luce, who participates in the instruction and is passionate about both the track record and promise of the same academy from which he graduated.
This weekend will be undeniably different, however, as he presides over his first graduation ceremony in his new role as director of the IU Police Academy.
"This is not my academy," Luce said. "This is not the superintendent's academy. This is Indiana University's academy. This is the men and women of IUPD's academy. Anyone who wants to help us continue as a strong academy and to become elite, we welcome your insights."
This month Luce, a former defensive lineman for IU Football and a two-degree IU alumnus, began his new position as director of public safety education for IUPD. In addition to overseeing the IU Police Academy, Luce is responsible for ensuring that full-time and part-time officers on all IU campuses receive quality state-mandated training and other training deemed necessary throughout the year. He also will assume responsibility for major internal affairs investigations, a new role within IUPD and the reason the position's rank was enhanced from captain to major.
"The position has an enormous responsibility to contributing to our agency's overall success in training and personnel development," Benjamin Hunter, superintendent of public safety (and IU Police Academy alum), said. "I'm grateful for Major Luce's commitment to our department and to Indiana University."
Did someone mention passion?
Luce knew what he was getting into when he joined the IU Police Academy. His father, Stephen, retired from a career in law enforcement and currently serves as the director of the Indiana Sheriffs Association.
Since graduating from the IU Police Academy in 2006 and joining IUPD, Luce has moved through the ranks holding a range of positions, from patrol officer and detective, to shift supervisor, field training officer, liaison to athletics and most recently as a sergeant and training coordinator for IU Bloomington, where he oversaw the division's Cadet Officer Program.
Law enforcement is a noble profession, he said, and a challenging field. He said the IU Police Academy, which is where he met his wife, Josefa, holds its cadets to high standard -- something that sticks with them throughout their careers.
"I see the product that we put out there. Our graduates become the chiefs and executives of departments of all over the country," Luce said. "I know that we're doing it the right way because our graduates make a difference wherever they land."
The "marriage" to Indianan University contributes to the high caliber expectations, Luce said. Cadets are immersed in higher education as they pursue their academic degrees -- they can major in anything while participating in the Cadet Officer Program. If they successfully complete the academy, they can graduate from IU with both an academic degree and certification as a law enforcement officer in the state of Indiana -- in addition to having job experience as a part-time police officer for their campus.
"The program is run with discipline and purpose," Luce said, noting that his predecessor, retired Capt. Greg Butler, did impressive work. "We have a reputation that we want to keep because of the university."
Luce would like to intensify the influence of IU's academic excellence on the academy curriculum by seeking collaborations with faculty throughout the system. Areas of expertise in leadership, for example, and de-escalation particularly interest him. He plans to reach out to faculty but encourages anyone with an interest in helping the academy to contact him, as well.
IU Police Academy -- then & now
The Cadet Officer Program began in the early ‘70s as a way to provide additional security on campuses and to reduce barriers and tensions between authorities (police) and students, who attended college during a turbulent time in history. While these objectives remain, changes include bike patrols and the residence hall live-in program, which provides part-time officers with free room and board in exchange for their availability if incidents arise. Other changes involve additional training topics, such as diversity, recognition and response to mental illness, and issues related to stress.
The academy has graduated more than 1,200 officers and has left Luce indebted, he said, for the opportunities he has received and for his family, which includes two sons, Fernando and Cristian.
"It's a profession," he said of his work. "It's not something you turn off and on at the end of your shift or the end of your day."