The city is opening a second high school to a criminal justice pipeline that puts students on track to work as police officers in Dallas. The program, started at Oak Cliff’s Carter High School in 2015, aims to equip the short-staffed Dallas PD with more homegrown talent while diversifying the ranks.
As Carter’s first cohort of criminal justice students prepares to graduate after next school year, the program will now be available at Bryan Adams High School in Far East Dallas. At an event Tuesday afternoon, DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said Mayor Eric Johnson pushed for the expansion shortly after taking office. “It was an easy sell, because we believe in this,” Hinojosa said. “There are great careers in law enforcement.”
Councilman Adam Medrano first trumpeted the program in 2015, after seeing its successes in cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles. The criminal justice pathway at Carter has 96 enrollees today. At Bryan Adams, up to 125 students in each class can join DISD’s early college program known as P-TECH, although not all will choose criminal justice. Bryan Adams is also adding a teaching pathway next year.
With Bryan Adams in the mix, “you have a natural pipeline where you have both African American and Latino kids coming through,” Hinojosa said. Bryan Adams is predominately made up of hispanic students, while Carter has a majority black population. The goal from the beginning was to expand geographically. Hinojosa says Sunset High School, in North Oak Cliff, could be next.
In an op-ed for the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday, DISD Trustee Miguel Solis held up the program as a successful, though too rare, example of government collaboration. Solis, the school board president in 2015, worked with Medrano during the program’s early stages and called for its expansion during his mayoral bid earlier this year. Solis wrote:
For many [students], this means breaking the poverty cycle. Additionally, Dallas will have our own peace officers serving our community, providing a new take on community policing rooted in a lens of empathy and social bonds to the very communities that raised the officers.
This concept is no panacea. Rather, it is a long-term approach to addressing issues each of us feels daily while restoring the public’s confidence in government in multiple ways. It further shows that de-siloing government can and should be done.
The program at Bryan Adams will include courses called Crime in America, Intro to Homeland Security, and Drug Use and Abuse. Students who complete the program will earn a letter of intent from DISD, stating the city’s intent to employ students after they’ve finished a two-year Associate’s Degree or their Bachelor’s.
DPD requires officers have 45 college credit hours, a number that high school students can hit through dual-credit courses. Hinojosa says the district expects between 15 percent and 20 percent of students who graduate DISD high schools next year will do so with an Associate’s Degree — which requires 60 hours — already in hand.
Those students would still have to wait until they turn 19 to join the police training academy. Hinojosa says the district and city are working to find employment options to keep them in the city’s orb during the time off.
“If the kids have the credentialing, they’ve got their hours, and all they’re waiting on is to age up, they’ll find a way to get them employed and keep them in the pipeline,” he said.