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New policing degree emphasizes community, collaboration and well-being

The new program at Trent’s GTA campus aspires to engage “with issues of diverse communities,” says administrator.

BY MATTHEW GUIDA | APR 27 2020

Last fall, Trent University unveiled its new policing and community well-being bachelor’s degree, offered exclusively at the institution’s Durham GTA campus in Oshawa, Ontario.

According to Scott Henderson, the dean of Trent Durham GTA, the degree is unique because it is the only community-inclusive policing program in Canada.

“It’s a different approach to policing,” says Dr. Henderson. “It’s engaging with issues of diverse communities, of Indigenous cultural issues, of issues around addiction, mental health, aging. It really takes a very broad approach to policing.”

He adds that the program is based at Durham GTA rather than the university’s main campus in Peterborough to help distinguish the GTA campus with unique programs tailored to the region.

“We’re trying to develop programs that align with job opportunities and the growth of this region, but also with an eye to the Toronto area and the Greater Toronto Area as a whole, recognizing the kind of employment opportunities that are there and the kinds of needs that exist in the community that our programming can align with,” says Dr. Henderson.

Peter Lennox volunteered as a curriculum advisor to the program. A retired superintendent of the Toronto Police College with 35 years of experience with the Toronto Police Service, including as unit commander, he has a vested interest in helping to evolve policing practice in Ontario.

In addition to Mr. Lennox – who was one of two senior police officers serving as advisors – the university also consulted professionals from fields such as social work, psychology, public health, as well as Indigenous studies to provide their perspectives.

“It was a tremendously exciting process, putting together this new degree to reflect the way policing is evolving and [how the] efforts to enhance community safety and well-being are evolving in the province,” says Mr. Lennox.

He notes that successful policing today requires building positive community relationships, and the program’s emphasis on community, collaboration, safety and well-being distinguishes it from most police-education programs.

“It’s not like a police foundations program at a community college where people learn hard policing skills,” says Mr. Lennox. “This is unique in that people who take the program are going to leave with a broader understanding of a diverse society, what threatens it and how to deal with those threats.”

While policing is the main focus of the program, it’s not the only career pathway presented to students. “I don’t envision the graduates of this program as necessarily all becoming police officers. They may find work in related services that work alongside the police or in community organizations that help out and expand that notion of well-being,” says Dr. Henderson.

Eventually, program coordinators plan to add upper-year courses that will have students conducting applied research or problem-solving with community partners and completing field placements with a police force or community organization.

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