(POPP) Police Orientation and Preparation Program
Opportunity of the community, by the community, and for the community.
Posted Oct 28, 2014
Luskin's Learning Psychology Series, No. 14
In 2009, I attended the launch of POPP, along with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, program founder Roberta Weintraub, West Los Angeles College president, Dr. Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh and others. To make POPP work, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), West Los Angeles College representing the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), embarked on a 5-year campaign to increase its police force through a guaranteed opportunity for POPP students to enter and have successful careers in law enforcement. I have always believed that this Los Angeles program is one of the best educational partnerships I have ever seen. The opportunity to explain POPP through my column is a privilege.
THE VISION: Educating local youth to populate local law enforcement in Los Angeles
“The mission of POPP,” insightfully explained to me by Roberta Weintraub, “is to give opportunity and access to local youth to succeed in law enforcement programs so the local law enforcement agencies can employ them. This gives each student, called cadets, an opportunity. It also populates the law enforcement agencies with locals who understand and connect with the community,” she explained. “POPP cadets respect their teachers, symbolize pride in the community and reflect the diversity of Los Angeles.”
Operationally, POPP is a two-year, Career Technical Education (CTE) program that is a partnership between the LAPD, West LA College, LACCD and the LAUSD. Cadets start the program as students in their senior year of high school with the objective of earning an A.A. degree two years later. POPP: (a) prepares cadets for the moral, ethical, and physical standards of the LAPD; (b) provides cadets with a two-year college curriculum that leads to the award of an Associate in Arts degree; and (c) prepares graduates for employment opportunities through law enforcement education, training and certification.
How POPP works:
POPP students wake up as early as 4:00 am and travel from communities all over Los Angeles to arrive at the Ahmanson Training Center by 6:00 am. They start their day with an hour of LAPD Drill Instructor-led Physical Training (PT) aimed at preparing students to pass the Physical Fitness Qualifier (PFQ), a California Peace Officer Standards of Training (POST) approved test that is also used in the LAPD recruitment process. After PT, students take a series of Administration of Justice and general education college courses meant to prepare them for a career in law enforcement, and also to ensure they meet the requirements for their A.A. degree. They take other classes until 2:30pm. The A.A. degree positions them to apply for priority acceptance into the LAPD, and/or transfer to a 4-year university.
There is help for the students:
POPP supports a cadet’s need to work while attending school. During the winter semester, first-year cadets complete a college course in security practices and procedures, leading to state certification as a security guard, while second-year cadets take a college course in peace officer powers of arrest and search and seizure, leading to POST certification as a peace officer. Once cadets receive these certifications, POPP–through its partnerships with local colleges and universities, private and government agencies, and the city of L.A.–helps cadets obtain jobs in the security sector that pay $12.50 to $21.00 per hour. Cadets work these jobs part-time while attending POPP and then switch to full-time placement during the interim period between their graduation and the completion of the LAPD application process.
Through its quality academic preparation and career training, POPP prepares young people to become high-quality candidates with an increased chance of successfully completing the LAPD application process. Equally important to the program’s mission, POPP addresses the need for police officers that respect and represent the diversity of Los Angeles communities. The majority of POPP students come from a diverse range of low-income neighborhoods across Los Angeles. The demographics of the student population are 85% Latino, 8% African American, 6% White, and 1% Asian/Pacific Islander. The ratio of males to females is 3:2. The true diversity that POPP cadets bring to the LAPD can be understood through their life experiences, broad cultural understanding, and passion for serving and protecting their communities.
Dr. Rebecca Neri, who contributed to this description, offered this typical quote as an example:
“As a police officer, I think I can help my community and neighborhoods like mine because I am my community. Maybe with the understanding I have, I can gain people’s trust and help them.”
Characterizing the program:
During interviews, one recent POPP graduate explained how “being her community” and coming from a Salvadoran background allows her to gain people’s trust and effectively solve problems. During a ride-along, the on-duty police officer asked her to translate for a man who was in distress. She remembered that the man seemed anxious, nervous, and upset. Upon finding out that she both spoke Spanish and was from El Salvador, the man calmed down. He also began explaining that a dispute had occurred between him and his wife which is why he was so upset. The fledgling officer said, “Then he looked at me and said, ‘You know how it is.’ The funny thing is, I did know exactly what he meant. We were able to get him to participate and move onto our next call. I realized that the things I have learned from my family and culture help me help people. It was kind of cool,” the student reported.
Another typical comment:
“Making the decision to become a police officer was easy. Convincing people around me that it was the right decision was not easy. It’s worth it though–being able to help and protect people, even people who don’t believe in my choice right now.”
A second year POPP cadet interviewed, explained that when she made the decision to attend POPP, her family and friends were not supportive. She recalled the difficulty of losing a number of her old friends. “I think people have a lot of bad feelings about the police, and I understand why that may be, but I think what a lot of people forget is that police officers risk their lives everyday trying to help people,” she said. She also explained that helping people from her community understand her decision also made them think differently about the police. “I think when people understood that I wanted to help my community by becoming a police officer, they thought “Wait, I know her, and if there are police officers like her, that’s good.”
POPP has a bright future:
POPP provides cadets with increased education and career opportunities, both through the A.A. degree that will get them law enforcement jobs, higher salaries and providing students with a pathway to transfer to a 4-year university. POPP is also providing cadets with employment opportunities while they are attending the program and waiting to complete the application process for the LAPD. Many cadets report that being able to work while they go to school is crucial to their continued success.
For the community, POPP is actively contributing to the formation of a highly qualified, homegrown police force that substantially reflects the diversity of Los Angeles. Through personal experience, cultural understanding, and knowledge of Los Angeles–individuals mirror and improve community-police relations. Because of local understanding, training built on respect, empathy and intimacy with the community; POPP graduates add unique experience that benefits the total community.
THE MIRROR EFFECT
The Police Orientation Preparation Program (POPP) provides access and opportunity for success in law enforcement to a large numbers of high-quality local graduates who mirror and understand diverse Los Angeles communities. POPP is one of the best educational partnerships I have seen.
For additional information please contact Jeff Burgess, Director of POPP@ARTC.
Address: 5651 W. Manchester Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90045 Phone #: (310) 342-0511
Roberta Weintraub,is Founder of POPP and the LA Police Academy High Schools.
Rebecca Neri is a Ph.D. student in the Urban Schooling Division of the Department of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is a member of the Improvement by Design (IBD) research group led by UCLA professors, Louis and Kim Gomez.
Dr. Bernard Luskin is President Emeritus of the Society for Media Psychology and Technology, Division 46 of the American Psychological Association and Chancellor, Ventura County Community College District. He has served as CEO of eight colleges and universities. His Psychology Today column is titled, The Media Psychology Effect.
Special Appreciation: to Andrea Rambo, Anthony Berryman, Jeff Burgess, Eric Brach, and Toni Luskin, PhD, for their technical and editorial contributions.
Email contact for Dr. Luskin: BernieLuskin@gmail.com