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A New Kind of Police Corps : Plan Would Exchange Free Education for Public Service

Congress can add as many as 100,000 cops to beleaguered local police departments without costing financially strapped cities a dime. A national police corps would provide scholarships for college students in exchange for four years of public service after graduation. Every state could benefit.

Modeled after the military’s Reserve Officer Training Corps, the police corps would annually choose up to 25,000 high school seniors and college students on a competitive basis. These students would qualify for deferred loans of up to $10,000 a year for tuition and other costs. The benefits would allow thousands of Americans to get an education.

After graduation, these men and women would work in law enforcement for four years. In exchange, the federal government would repay their debts. Police departments would pay entry-level salaries, but save big because the short-timers would not qualify for pensions. The savings would add up quickly though. For example, adding a single cop to the Los Angeles Police Department costs nearly $71,600 in salary and benefits.

Legislation to create a police corps enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, but the bill is stalled in the House. In the Senate, Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) had hoped to add it as an amendment to the omnibus crime bill, which is bogged down by debate fueled by the National Rifle Assn. The police corps measure should be decided on its singular merits.

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At full tilt, the police corps would field as many as 100,000 college-educated officers at a cost estimated at anywhere from $500,000 to $1.4 billion for recruiting, training and repayment of the loans. It would help local departments with the hard task of recruiting and reduce the expense of putting more officers on the streets.

A national police corps would encourage public service and beef up public safety. It is a bargain for students, police departments and crime-weary Americans.


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