The Future of Policing
Southern Police Institute
If you’ve spent even a few moments watching one of the myriad police procedurals on television, you’ve likely heard of Quantico, Virginia, home of the FBI law enforcement training center. You may be surprised to learn, however, that UofL’s Belknap Campus houses an institute that consistently ranks alongside the FBI in the top executive development training centers for law enforcement in the nation, attracting students from across the US and locales as far-flung as Lebanon and Japan. This is the Southern Police Institute.
In continuous operation since 1951, the Southern Police Institute (SPI) was established to offer social, pedagogical, and technical training to officers as a means of addressing issues of race and improving partnerships with communities. Though program offerings have since expanded to include a command officers development course (CODC), an administrative officers course (AOC), and extensive professional development courses, the central idea of partnering with communities remains the same. “It is crucial for law enforcement officers to learn how to place ourselves in the community,” says director Cindy Shain. “Issues of critical interest [for our students] are building trust and transparency with communities, keeping pace with ever-changing technology, and recruitment and retention of quality, guardian-minded personnel.”
Dwindling budgets create difficulties for departments in underserved communities to provide professional development, so SPI works to meet them where they are—literally. SPI has offered command officers training in Florida and New England; homicide investigation courses in North Pole, Alaska; and background investigation training in Bamako, Mali. Shain sees enormous value in diversity in training settings. “Sharing ideas with colleagues from a variety of agency types and locales allows participants to enlarge their views and networks to benefit their career and the profession as a whole.”
Donor-funded scholarships have aided in improving diversity within the program, especially for women, who are still vastly underrepresented in the field. Shain’s passion to create paths to recruit and retain women is evident, and this mission is buoyed by the Cynthia and George Nichols AOC Scholarship, which seeks both to increase the number of female officers in command roles and to encourage law enforcement agencies to identify and develop more women for these positions.
As a woman who entered law enforcement several decades ago, Shain attained many “firsts” in her career — one of the first women on patrol in Louisville and, later, the first female district commander for the Louisville Metro Police Department. After retiring from LMPD as Deputy Chief with 24 years of service, she has shared her unique expertise around the globe through her work with the International Association of Women Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, paving the way for a more diverse future in law enforcement. “One day,” Shain says, “hopefully there won’t be so many ‘firsts’ and women will be represented in equal measure.”