Cops: class is in session

A 6th Dis­trict of­ficer is among those go­ing back to school with the help of schol­ar­ships.

From So­crates to psy­cho­logy, sev­er­al Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficers ex­pan­ded their per­spect­ives this sum­mer by at­tend­ing col­lege courses paid for by a spe­cial schol­ar­ship pro­gram.

The of­ficers live or work in the River Wards or the North­east.

“My grand­daugh­ters thought it was funny that I had home­work, too,” said Patrol Of­ficer Jane Rash, a Holmes­burg res­id­ent who works at the Fire­arms Train­ing Unit at the Phil­adelphia Po­lice Academy, at 8501 State Rd. Rash has been a po­lice of­ficer for 30 years, and went back to school a few years ago.

This sum­mer, Rash and 21 oth­er po­lice of­ficers got fund­ing from the Kal and Lu­cille Rud­man Schol­ar­ship fund to at­tend Com­munity Col­lege of Phil­adelphia (CCP) courses. In Rash’s case, the schol­ar­ship money made it pos­sible for her to take two courses in­stead of just one.

While study­ing philo­sophy, so­ci­ology, psy­cho­logy and crim­in­al justice, Philly po­lice of­ficers who re­ceived the schol­ar­ships were able to earn pro­mo­tion­al points that help their ca­reers while sharpen­ing their minds on the finer points of ab­stract thought.

“It was like a light bulb com­ing on,” said Of­ficer Mag­dalen Clarke, 47, a Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficer for 25 years, about her so­ci­ology course at CCP. “It helps me in the po­lice com­munity and in the com­munity it­self. I live in North­east Philly [Rhawn­hurst] and it’s so di­verse, it helps to un­der­stand oth­er people’s cus­toms.”

Clarke also works at the po­lice academy.

Some of the classes were taught by CCP fac­ulty at the po­lice academy, where they were at­ten­ded by po­lice of­ficers, fire fight­ers, sher­iff’s de­part­ment of­ficers and cor­rec­tion­al of­ficers.

Many of­ficers said that go­ing back to school has im­proved their un­der­stand­ing of the so­cial is­sues rel­ev­ant to day-to-day po­lice work.

“I can step back, if I’m in­volved with some­body and talk to some­body, I can step back and see their per­spect­ive – not just as a po­lice, but in my per­son­al life,” Of­ficer Rash said. “At the su­per­mar­ket or the movies, you’re al­ways go­ing to be with dif­fer­ent types of people.”

Patrol Of­ficer Ry­an Barks­dale, 37, has been a po­lice of­ficer for six years and cur­rently works in North­east Phil­adelphia in the 25th Dis­trict. He lives in Castor Gar­dens. He wanted to go back to school partly be­cause it was on his “buck­et list,” and partly be­cause his son was just leav­ing for col­lege.

“My goal is to gradu­ate with my son,” Barks­dale said. “That would be a dream of mine, we’d both have reached our goals.”

Barks­dale has stud­ied ju­ven­ile justice, con­tem­por­ary justice and ter­ror­ism, and said they helped him un­der­stand people on the streets and the things he sees every day. But he was most af­fected by read­ing Vic­tor Frankl’s famed Holo­caust mem­oir, “Man’s Search for Mean­ing.”

“It just opened up my eyes, with the people and what they were go­ing through be­ing in the con­cen­tra­tion camps.” he said. “I nev­er knew it could be that cold.”

Patrol Of­ficer Craig Sweeney, 56, a Lex­ing­ton Park res­id­ent who works in the 6th Dis­trict in Cen­ter City, which in­cludes parts of North­ern Liber­ties, was at the schol­ar­ship cel­eb­ra­tion last week as well. While Sweeney did not re­ceive a schol­ar­ship this year, he is tak­ing CCP courses and par­ti­cip­at­ing in a tu­ition re­im­burse­ment pro­gram with the city.

“It opens up your view­points,” said Sweeney about his stud­ies in so­ci­ology, psy­cho­logy and philo­sophy. He said the edu­ca­tion “ab­so­lutely” helped him do his job.

“We’re try­ing to as­sume dif­fer­ent people’s view­points, and we’re in a mul­ti­cul­tur­al so­ci­ety – wheth­er it’s Cen­ter City, North Philly or South Philly – it opens up your eyes a little, just be­ing in school and be­ing ac­climated to dif­fer­ent people and dif­fer­ent life­styles.”

Sweeney re­cently passed the ser­geant’s pro­mo­tion­al ex­am, which he cred­its to col­lege classes sharpen­ing his mind.

“It’s good for me, for my fam­ily, and for the po­lice de­part­ment,” he said of his new edu­ca­tion. “They’re go­ing to be­ne­fit by get­ting a bet­ter of­ficer, a more in-tune of­ficer.”

Rash, Barks­dale, Sweeney and Clarke all in­tend to keep go­ing with their edu­ca­tion now that they’ve got­ten star­ted, either by get­ting an as­so­ci­ate’s de­gree, trans­fer­ring to a bach­el­or’s pro­gram, or even go­ing for a mas­ter’s. Some of them said that they had set an ex­ample that in­spired their chil­dren and oth­er fam­ily mem­bers to go back to school, too.

“I be­lieve you should al­ways strive for edu­ca­tion,” Rash said. “The world doesn’t stop, there’s al­ways something go­ing on, and if you don’t keep up with it and if you don’t learn about it, you’re just left back in the tar pits.”

Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house can be reached at sne­w­

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