'Blue Path' program opens doors for graduating seniors - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

'Blue Path' program opens doors for graduating seniors

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

A new program announced Monday is opening up the opportunity for 150 graduating high school seniors to snag a full-time position with Memphis Police Department.

MPD and the city are doing all they can to get the number of officers up, and they said this new program is another tool to put more officers on the street.

"Blue Path" is a program that targets young people and provides a way for them to serve the community through the police department. Plus, it comes with an all-expense paid college education where the student will be able to receive an associate's degree in criminal justice and a job.

The program has spots for 150 students, but it requires a lot of commitment on the student's part.

"Blue Path is a wonderfully creative solution that affords meaningful career and education opportunities for our young people, while helping to attract bright young talent to our police force," Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said. "I could not be more pleased to launch this program and hope that many seniors will use this pipeline to graduate to the Best in Blue."

The students will receive their degree from Southwest Tennessee Community College and will be able to get a full-time job as a police service technician (PST) with MPD beginning June 2017.

"It's a great way to take advantage of Tennessee Promise," Doug McGowen, Chief Operating Officer for City of Memphis, said. "It's a great way for young people to get a career in law enforcement."

Right now, PSTs handle things such as responding to traffic accidents. It enables the police officers to be free to focus on public safety.

The students will be employed with MPD as police service technicians, earning $26,000 a year, while they go to class and complete their coursework with STCC over four semesters. Upon completion of their degree and once they turn 21 years old, the graduates will be eligible to pursue a career through MPD's sworn officer training to become a police officer.

"We are so pleased to deliver a customized workforce solution for MPD," Dr. Tracy Hall, President of Southwest Tennessee Community College, said. "Thanks to the Tennessee Promise, we will provide a college degree completely free of charge to students and free of charge to MPD."

But, not everyone is applauding the program.

"We're at 182 homicides. We need some fixes right now," Memphis Police Association president Mike Williams said.

Williams said the program does not address the immediate problems the city is facing, such as the rising violent crime rate.

"Don't get me wrong. That [Blue Path] is a good idea," Williams said. "But, that would have been a good idea three, four years ago."

He said officers who are sometimes working 16-hours shifts are beginning to get burned out. Williams said bringing in more PSTs will not help that situation and will not give officers a break.

However, McGowen disagrees and said they are addressing the immediate needs with recruiting programs like Best in Blue campaign. He said that campaign has been widely successful. But, the Blue Path program is a way to ensure the problem does not reappear a few years from now.

"You can always address the immediate program, but unless you're going upstream and looking at some longer term investments, and how do you get some longer term investments? You start early and get young people in the pipeline. You have to tackle it on both ends," McGowen said.

Students who want to apply for the Blue Path program are required to attend one of five Blue Path informational sessions this month. Parents or guardians are encouraged, but not required to attend. 

All sessions will be held at Southwest Tennessee Community College's (SWTCC) Macon Campus at 5983 Macon Cove. The sessions will be in the Bornblum Library Auditorium (ML 122). 

The informational sessions will be held as follows:

  • Saturday, October 22: 9 - 11 a.m 
  • Saturday, October 22: 3-5 p.m. 
  • Monday, October 24: 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. 
  • Tuesday, October 25: 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. 
  • Wednesday, October 26: 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. 

The sessions will begin on time and students are encouraged to arrive 15 minutes early to park and get seated. Free parking is available in front of the Bornblum Library.

In order to be eligible for Blue Path, all students must submit an application for Tennessee Promise by November 1.

For more information on the program, click here.

Copyright 2016 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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