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Public Safety Commission hears update on police academy after reset

Friday, December 10, 2021 by Amy Smith

This week the Public Safety Commission heard an update on the Austin Police Department’s first cadet class since pausing cadet training to restructure the curriculum to align with the city’s reimagining public safety process.

Dr. Anne Kringen, who joined APD in March to serve as division manager over the training academy, provided a high-level review of the 144th cadet class, which started six months ago and concludes in late January.

Kringen is tasked with changing the curriculum to encourage cadets to think of themselves as community servants rather than “warriors” – a military style of training that has drawn sharp criticism from both the community and City Council. Council members authorized the current cadet class as a pilot effort to determine whether other adjustments are needed before continuing future classes.

Seventy-two cadets remain from the original 98 cadets at the start, while others left due to illness, injury, termination or for personal reasons, Kringen said, later noting that many of those who left are eligible to return for the next training session.

“This is a pilot academy, so we’re building on it, we’re learning from the lessons that we’ve had from things that have maybe not been implemented as well as we’d like throughout all of the courses,” she said, noting de-escalation practices are among the top lessons.

The cadet class has had eight hours of the history of race and policing, taught by Dr. Kevin Foster of UT’s African & African Diaspora Studies. “We’re having the conversations in-house about what does this actually mean, so that police are not sort of siloed from the community and having these dialogues,” Kringen said.

Addressing the demographics of the class, Kringen said it comprises one Asian, 10 African American, 29 white, 30 Hispanic, and two “other” cadets. Regarding educational background, 31 have some college, 26 have a bachelor’s degree and five have a master’s degree. Twenty-three of the cadets have prior military experience while 10 have experience in law enforcement. The class is made up of 62 men and 10 women.

Commissioner Rebecca Bernhardt observed that the diversity demographics are “dramatically out of proportion with the actual population of Austin,” particularly as they relate to Asians and women. Women make up about 50 percent of Austin’s population.

Kringen agreed that APD and police departments in general need to work harder to recruit and retain female police officers.

“I could probably talk to you about this for a really long time because women in policing is actually my area of research,” said Kringen, who previously served as a professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven as well as assistant dean of the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences.

While traditionally recruiters have focused their messaging on service when targeting prospective female cadets, the pitch should also cover salary, benefits, and the challenges of the job, Kringen noted. Departments and researchers are still grappling with how to get more women to submit their applications after they’ve expressed an interest in policing.

Beyond that, it’s a matter of retaining female recruits, Kringen continued. “Just because we have women in the academy doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re also going to stay in the profession themselves. It’s something that we’re really interested in unpacking and thinking of those particular challenges.”

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