Temple University Police Academy trains first DCNR cadets

Temple University Police Academy graduation

When visiting Tyler State Park, Fort Washington State Park or Delaware Canal State Park, you may not immediately notice them but there is a dedicated group of people tasked with ensuring the safety of the parks and everyone who visits them.

Just like national parks, state parks are protected by law enforcement rangers. The state park rangers are overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservations and Natural Resources (DCNR). For the first time, Pennsylvania’s state park rangers are being trained by Temple University’s Criminal Justice Training Programs.

“There are park rangers that serve at the federal, state and county level. Federal park rangers enforce the laws and regulations covering federal lands; state rangers follow state law and park ordinances; and county rangers enforce county ordinances and park-specific rules,” said Anthony J. Luongo, Director of Temple’s Criminal Justice Training Programs and Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program (SLETP) and Associate Director of ProRanger Philadelphia, a partnership between Temple and the National Park Service to training law enforcement rangers for service in national parks. “The DCNR had requested proposals for state ranger training, which follows the guidelines of Pennsylvania’s Act 120 police academy training. Temple is one of 20 certified police training academies in the Commonwealth and we are now the sole provider for basic recruit training for the DCNR in Pennsylvania.”

Established in 1995, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is charged with maintaining and preserving 120 state parks; managing the 2.2 million acres of state forest land; providing information on the state’s ecological and geologic resources; and establishing community conservation partnerships with grants and technical assistance to benefit rivers, trails, greenways, local parks and recreation, regional heritage parks, open space and natural areas. DCNR park rangers are an essential part of the DCNR’s mission, said Luongo.

“Criminal Justice Training Programs has a great deal of experience in training park rangers. Combined with nearly 50 years of academy training experience, we are uniquely positioned to train members of law enforcement in a wide variety of settings, from urban to suburban, rural to parkland — we’ve always taught big picture,” he said. “With the Temple University Police Academy, we strive not merely to teach our cadets how to do police work, but how to be a police officer with all the ideals and virtues that we wish — and society demands — police officers to have. Policing is a tremendous opportunity to serve and to lead. Literally, it is a job for those who stand up and say ‘I am willing to be braver than most. I will be fairer than others. I will be physically and emotionally stronger. I will be wiser.’”

The 22-week Temple University Municipal Police Academy is offered at the Ambler Campus. The more than 754-hour curriculum includes everything from criminal law and defensive tactics to emergency vehicle driving, firearms, and ethics and integrity training, said Chris Willard, Assistant Director of the Criminal Justice Training Programs and Interim Director of the Municipal Police Academy.

“With the addition of the DCNR cadets, we are offering three academies for the first time in CJTP history.  The current academy class will graduate on Friday, October 21, SLETP will follow on December 19 and another Police Academy class will graduate on February 16,” she said. “The next police academy cohort will begin on January 30. Once the DCNR cadets graduate from us, the DCNR conducts additional department-specific training.”

According to Willard, 11 soon-to-be DCNR rangers participated in the most recent training class in addition to police department cadets from area municipalities or individuals seeking to complete the academy training prior to applying for a job in law enforcement. Fifteen to 18 DCNR cadets are expected to participate in the next academy class.

“There is a difference between being a park ranger and a police officer. A park ranger isn’t solely there to enforce the law; they have to be able to interact guests and inform about the park,” she said. “We emphasize enforcement through education. We want our students to appreciate and take pride in the profession they are entering. We want them to realize the great responsibility they are being charged with as a park ranger.”

According to Willard, the Temple University police academy is state certified by the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission and, in addition to the DCNR trainees, is attended by recruits from throughout Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware, and Philadelphia counties, and in some cases well beyond. All of the Academy’s faculty are either active or retired full-time law enforcement practitioners including police officers, deputy sheriffs, assistant district attorneys, and members of the judiciary.

“We have about 40 instructors. All of our instructors are required to become certified, they must have a minimum of three years experience in law enforcement, and they have had to have shown proficiency in the skills that they are teaching,” she said. “I think one of the things that makes our academy unique is the high academic standards our cadets are held to. We have some of the best skills instructors in the state; some that are nationally recognized. The program that we provide — the legal, personal, and professional skills that the cadets must learn — is exceptionally intricate and complex.”

The next Temple University Municipal Police Academy at the Ambler Campus begins in January 30. The application deadline is Tuesday, January 10. Applications are reviewed as they are received. For more information, contact policeacademy@temple.edu or call 267-468-8600 or apply online.

Criminal Justice Training Programs, a division of the Temple University Department of Criminal Justice, is an interdisciplinary unit that has conducted professional development programs for a variety of criminal justice agencies and occupations since 1968. Today, more than 3,000 criminal justice professionals attend programs offered by CJTP each year including police officers, deputy sheriffs, state constables, school resource officers, park rangers, and crime prevention specialists. Other activities include continuing education programs for agencies allied to the criminal justice system, and the development of curricula including distance-learning. For the latest news and developments, please see the announcements below. For more information, visit www.temple.edu/cjtp.