NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Letter to the Editor: Police training on campus

To the NECC Observer:

I have been an adjunct faculty member at the college for 18 years, and it has been my privilege to teach here, especially as a former student and graduate. The college has always been invested in partnering with our surrounding communities in an attempt to serve them in any way we can, and that is an admirable mission. Public community colleges should do more than simply educate students. We should be resources, in as many ways as we can, for the communities we serve and, for the most part, I’ve been very proud of how the college has fulfilled that mission.

In fairly recent years, however, the college has become home to two police training academies, and I have become increasingly dismayed and discomfited by the impact these training academies are having on our Haverhill campus. Some students and faculty have expressed discomfort at the way recruits address us as we are passing by. Even though they are doing so respectfully, it can feel threatening. Other students have expressed alarm at the harsh manner in which recruits are being spoken to, including the use of yelling and profanities. The training drills held on grounds outside of classrooms have always been at least mildly disruptive to those of us trying to teach in classrooms where the drilling can be heard, and to the students we are trying to teach.

This semester, I have noticed that the training drills increasingly resemble the kind of drills one would expect in the military. Recruits are crawling on the ground while flash-bangs are deployed, and they are practicing aggressive fighting maneuvers aimed at disarming and even disabling citizens they might interact with. Today when I arrived at campus, multiple police vehicles with lights flashing were all practicing interacting with occupants of vehicles, with guns drawn and pointed. I am forced to wonder why recruits are being trained to expect and respond to the most violent possible confrontations with the citizens they are charged with serving and protecting, and I personally feel less safe knowing this is the way police recruits are being trained on our very own campus. In light of the conversation nationwide on the need for police reform, and especially because the college has a criminal justice program, this seems especially relevant to the young people we are charged with not just teaching our subject matter, but teaching to think critically about national and world problems.

I hope that this will be a vehicle for further input from the college community at large, and I hope that the Observer will consider canvassing the college community for their opinions.

Respectfully,

Janet Clark