CPD celebrates its higher education

COVINGTON - Officers with the Covington Police Department generally are the ones giving lessons, but many are going back to school to further their own educations.

Thanks to the city's tuition reimbursement plan, many officers and other city employees are returning to the classroom to earn master's and bachelor's degrees and other degrees in higher education.

Currently, 18 of 62 CPD employees have two or more degrees; 45 percent have at least one degree and five employees have three or more. After completing a master's of criminal justice program at Troy University in Covington this past year, 18 CPD employees now have master's degrees and two have two master's degrees, according to statistics released by the department.

"There's not a real organized push, but certainly the chief of police (Stacey Cotton) and other administration have encouraged all of the officers to continue their education," said Captain Ken Malcom, who participated in the criminal justice master's program at Troy. "Also, the officers encourage each other. ... When an opportunity becomes available, like through Troy, we encourage each other to participate with us."

Malcom said having several colleges in and near Covington helps more officers participate in more programs.

Cotton, who has two master's degrees, said so many officers getting further educated is the culmination of his vision for the department from 10 years ago.

"I don't push or require them or tell them they won't be promoted, but I tell them how important it is," he said.

The basic requirement to enter his department is to have a high school diploma.

"If they have a degree, that's a bonus for them," Cotton said. "Over the last 10 years, I've actually seen more applicants have degrees."

If they don't have a degree when they enter the department or plan to get another degree, he said many see the city's tuition reimbursement program as a huge benefit into furthering their careers. Plus, city employees can earn incentive steps in pay grades depending on their education, training and other certification.

At the first of each year, those city employees who are interested in obtaining a degree in a field related to their job or another city job will sign up for the program. After deciding which school they plan to attend and what degree they plan to obtain, the paperwork goes to a department head for approval, said Nancy Harvill, payroll benefit manager for the city.

Once they finish the course with a grade of C or better, the students turn in a request to have their books and tuition reimbursed.

Currently, the city pays for a maximum of $5,250 per student each year, which is what the IRS says is nontaxable, Harvill said.

She said the city doesn't have a maximum number of students it allows to participate in the program.

John Grotheer, financial director for the city, said $49,556 was expended in 2007 for post secondary education for employees at the Covington Police Department; as of this month, $40,612 has been expended in 2008.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.