DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Ohio is taking the lead in educating, training and recruiting quality minority and women police officers through a program introduced by Governor Mike DeWine.

The state College to Law Enforcement Pathway Program (CLEPP), introduced in 2020, identifies high-performing college students interested in having a career in criminal justice.

Gov. DeWine created the program and established the Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment to aid police departments that were having difficulty hiring and retaining qualified police officers.

DeWine appointed Dr. Patrick Oliver to serve as lead consultant and director of the CLEPP program.

Oliver’s task is to help Ohio police departments find quality officers with an emphasis on female and minority candidates.

“We wanted to help state and local law enforcement agencies find qualified applicants,” Oliver said. “A top concern is that many police departments can’t find quality applicants. It’s even more difficult to find qualified minorities and women to serve.”

The program, led by Oliver, is currently underway at Cedarville University and Central State University.

Students who graduate from the program are guaranteed a position as a law enforcement officer with any participating law enforcement agency that has a current vacancy.

Three students from Cedarville University are in the program, and three of Cedarville’s 2022 graduates have been placed in jobs, according to a release from the university.

Taylor Smart graduated from the program in 2022. She is now a police officer in training with the Beavercreek Police Department.

Smart said the rigorous workout program and comprehensive content offerings prepared her for her current role.

“The CLEPP program was really good preparation for the police academy. I appreciated that the program didn’t shy away from hard topics, such as mental health for police officers,” Smart said.

“It was good that they exposed us to that stuff so we could be ready. The workout requirements were helpful as well. You never know when the effort you put into being physically capable can make a difference in this job.”

The CLEPP program allowed Smart to complete several screening requirements early, as opposed to after graduation like most law enforcement candidates. This includes an interview, background check, polygraph, psychological examination and more.

As a result, Smart was able to make it through Beavercreek Police Department’s hiring process in less than a month instead of the typical 12 weeks.

“She’s fitting in and acclimating very well,” Jeff Fiorita, Beavercreek Chief of Police, said.

“We felt early that we wanted to partner with this program to find good female and minority police candidates. Taylor Smart is the very first intern that came to us, and we are looking forward to more candidates this year. I am sure this program will be a huge benefit to law enforcement.”  

To qualify for the College to Law Enforcement Pathway program, students must hold a 3.0 GPA or higher and embody five characteristics: integrity, service, good human relations, teamwork and being performance-driven.

After an interview process, successful candidates are selected, placed in the program and vetted to determine if they would be quality officers.

“This program is the only one of its kind in the country,” Oliver said. “I hope it will provide quality police officers who can reduce police misconduct and promote justice across the state.”

More information about the CLEPP program can be found here.