“Hometown recruiting” helps high school kids become Arlington police officers

03/05/2014 7:15 PM

03/05/2014 7:15 PM

Martin High School juniors Jessica Carlton and Connor Vollmering both see themselves wearing a police uniform one day.

“Ever since I was a young kid, I’ve had a great passion for policing,” said Vollmering, who wants to become an officer who works with dogs. “I want to help people. I want to make a bad situation better.”

The desire to help others is also what drives Carlton, who said it’s her dream to become a detective who helps sexual assault victims and their families find justice.

A program set to launch at all six Arlington high schools in the fall means students like Carlton and Vollmering who are interested in law enforcement won’t have to wait until graduation to start down that career path. A partnership announced Wednesday among the Arlington Police Department, the Arlington school district and the University of Texas at Arlington aims to provide students with early college credit, experience through participating in a senior police academy course and incentives to consider becoming a police officer in their hometown.

As part of the Hometown Recruiting Program, Arlington students can earn nine hours of dual credit toward a bachelor’s degree starting in their junior year of high school, UT Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari said. Program graduates are guaranteed a job interview with the Arlington Police Department after earning their degree at UTA and are also given preference for a spot in a future police academy class.

“This gives me a good mindset if this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” said Carlton, who has already turned in her application for the program.

Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson said the job placement and recruitment program, developed over the past couple of years, celebrates local talent and provides a competitive advantage for program participants in the hiring process.

The Arlington Police Department, which hires a dozen or so officers each year, requires a bachelor’s degree for sworn personnel.

School Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos said the initiative will help students “maximize their potential and accelerate their progress to their dreams.”

“We know in the economy that we live in today and that we compete globally, that acceleration is important for our students, that they accelerate their path to their college and career of their choice,” Cavazos said.

Students in UTA’s criminology and criminal justice program can also apply for a Police Department internship named for Arlington officer Jillian Smith, an alumna who was killed in the line of duty in 2010. Qualified students receive $1,200 to offset tuition and are guaranteed a job if they pass tests required by the department.

“Whether or not people change their minds through the course of growing up, our community is still a winner because our youth are going to get a quality education, and they are going to get access to programs to make a path for a successful careers for all their future endeavors, “ Johnson said.

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