The largest campus police force in Virginia is accepting applications for its annual police academy.
The VCU Police Department is accepting applications for new recruits through Oct. 11. Both men and women are eligible to apply, and if selected, will become a part of the 39th academy and train to become officers. The VCU PD is the only campus law enforcement agency in Virginia that operates its own state-certified criminal justice academy.
Officer O. Thomas Broaddus graduated from VCU in 2010 with a degree in sociology and a minor in criminal justice. He went on to join last year’s 38th academy and is now a full-time officer.
“I was looking at surrounding departments, but I actually liked the campus police here because of the career involvement they do in community policing… I had never been in an environment with officers that were so engaging, and I really like that,” Broaddus said.
Broaddus described the 25-week academy as extremely thorough and challenging.
“The academy is a mix of physical and mental stimulation at the same time… the most challenging was trying to juggle defensive tactics with the academics…having your body taking a beating and trying to recover while you’re studying for tests, I had never experienced something like that,” he said.
After completing the 25-week curriculum, recruits must complete 12 weeks of field training before they are allowed to begin patrolling the streets. Recruits are paid a starting salary of approximately $35,000 during the training time spent in the academy.
Last year, VCU PD received 275 applicants and 17 recruits were accepted. The department is authorized for 92 sworn positions, and there are six vacancies. Because the process of becoming an officer from application to graduation is so extensive, this year’s academy will fill that need plus a projected number of separated officers for the upcoming year.
The turnover rate for officers leaving the force in 2012 was 7.3 percent, or seven officers. To date in 2013, nine officers have left the force. Reasons for separations include retirements, resignations, and firings.
Police chief John Venuti said he’s looking for people who consider VCU PD a destination department, not a transitional department.
“I want people to come here because they like the style of policing that we do here at VCU, which is a combination of municipal style urban policing and an equal part of community policing, engagement, interaction. That’s a very different role for a law enforcement officer,” Venuti said.
Venuti said that policing is “a calling” and requires a lot of sacrifice and compromise.
“It’s not the best salary compared to the private sector,” he said. “There are lots of mandatory shifts on holidays, weekends, and nights, and a lot of being away from your family.”