The start of a career: Cadets complete IU Police Academy

With brand new IU Police Department badges trimmed with a crimson ribbon, 41 cadets are now Indiana University law enforcement officers following graduating from the IU Police Academy on August 10. The two-year program allows full-time IU students to work in a law enforcement agency while earning their degree. Unique in the nation, the program provides not only valuable law enforcement training but also more than 600 hours of instruction.

"Our graduates are accredited as a state certified law enforcement officer with full police authority," said Brad Seifers, university director for IU Emergency Management and Continuity and IU Police Academy alumnus. "This class of 2019 joins more than 1,200 graduates who have gone on to amazing and diverse careers in law enforcement and other related fields. The experience and education these officers receive through IU sets them up well for a successful career in whatever area they may choose." 

A testament to the fact that IU Police Academy graduates find successful careers were several special guests from the academy's class of 1994 who were celebrating their 25th reunion. From working in local police department to the FBI to non law enforcement fields, the members of the class of 94 celebrated their careers to date and reminisced about their own time in the academy.

"As an IU Police Academy graduate myself having the experience and accreditation from the academy gave me and my fellow graduates a leg up in the job market when we graduated 25 years ago," Seifers said. "Having a certificate from the academy made finding a job relatively easy and many of us had agencies recruiting us to their teams." 

Let's catch up with a couple members of the class of 94 to see where their careers have taken them…

Jill Lees
Chief, Indiana University Police Department-Bloomington

Jill Lees became chief of the Indiana University Police Department-Bloomington in March after retiring as deputy superintendent of the Plainfield Police Department, where she had worked for 24 years. As chief, she provides leadership, direction and oversight for all law enforcement functions on campus, where she began her law enforcement career as a cadet in 1993.

Question: How have you seen a difference in career progression among your peers as a result of the IU Police Academy?

Answer:  The Class of 1994 is overall very successful. We all forged our own path after the IUPA, and many of us today are still in law enforcement. In my class there are two chiefs, a major, four federal agents, two Indiana state troopers, a director of mental health, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal sergeant, attorney, K9 officer, etc.  

Q: What is one takeaway from the IU Police Academy that has helped you in your career?  

A: Confidence. The IUPA helped us all build confidence in our own abilities that summer. I remember starting at Plainfield PD and not only thinking but knowing that I could do the job. I had great training and experience to help my confidence in transitioning to a municipal agency.  

Q: What is your favorite memory of the IU Police Academy? 

A: Lt. Rupe and physical training. He made such an impact in my life and I loved doing PT each morning. He worked us hard. The passion I have today for law enforcement is a direct result of IUPA and working with Lt. Rupe and Lt. Rhodes. 

Q: Did you expect to be in the position you are currently in upon graduation from the IU Police Academy?

A: No way! I always wanted to come back to IUPA later in my life after retirement because I loved my experience here so much. IUPD did not have a full-time opening when I was getting ready to graduate, so I left and went to work at Plainfield PD. This is my dream come true -- that I came back to IU as the chief of police. Everything that I learned during the past 25 years helped me prepare for this position. 

Q: What are the job experiences that you have valued as your career has progressed? 

A: I feel that the job experiences that were most valuable were the training and experiences I had early on as an field training officer, bicycle officer, instructor and DARE officer. These helped me gain knowledge in law enforcement by being able to teach others. This also helped with making a difference with students in the classroom and with public relations. I have received great community support in the Town of Plainfield and felt that has helped my career a ton! People called me all the time to tell me who was committing crimes in Town, or they would reach out for help in one way or another. As time went on, my training and over 20 years of experience in hostage negotiation helped me during many critical incidents and also helped me improve my communication skills overall. … My training as a public information officer has helped me gain experience and confidence when interviewing on television or for a newspaper. Also, my training as a police chaplain has allowed me to talk to people about their faith and how to assist them. … I am definitely not the same person I was in 1994 in some ways but in others, I am, if that makes sense. I always wanted to be that person who officers went to for assistance or with problems or questions. Now, I am that person. 

Q: How do you think law enforcement has progressed overall since you began working as a law enforcement officer? 

A: Technology and equipment have changed law enforcement! When I started at Plainfield we did have in-car dash cams and radars. Otherwise, that was it!  We did crash reports by hand; we wrote tickets by hand, etc. We did have computers, but they were very new. It is amazing today how law enforcement has technology like Bluetooth radio speakers, body cams, e-ticket, laptops, tablets, tasers, etc. How we police is different as well. There is more technology out there on where/when crimes occur and what type. Intelligence-led policing, directed patrol, etc., have changed how officers patrol their beats. I am excited to see what the future of law enforcement brings for the current generation. 

Q: Can you believe it has been 25 years? 

A: No; it has gone by so fast! It is amazing how time flies and how in my mind I don't feel any older.  I have been very blessed to have had such a positive and long-lasting career in law enforcement. This all goes back to being a part of the IUPA. My favorite quote that was actually printed in my high school graduation announcement back in 1991 is from the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off": "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." This is so true. Live in the present, not the past or the future. This way you enjoy more of the little things in life.