Olive-Harvey College Answers the Call and Prepares the Next Generation of Police Officers

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I have always been passionate about criminal justice. I am celebrating my tenth year at City Colleges of Chicago, but my first career was in law.

So, as the department chair of the Business and Professional Services Department at Olive-Harvey College, I feel fortunate to have helped launch our new “1 Year and Out” associate degree program in criminal justice, and I’ve been inspired by its success thus far. The program is meeting the needs of our students while helping to build a Chicago police force made up of dedicated, ethical, and well-trained law enforcement officers.

Dr. Jeffery Dillard, a man with a black beard, black hair, and glasses, smiles at the camera.
Dr. Jeffery Dillard, department chair of the Business and Professional Services Department at Olive-Harvey College

Olive-Harvey’s “1 Year and Out” criminal justice program offers the same 60 credit hours that students would get in traditional programs but in 12 months or less. To do this, we are intentional about the program’s design and upfront with students about the level of commitment necessary for success in the program. Many of our classes are eight weeks instead of the more common 12- and 16-week terms. Students take a larger number of credit hours and commit to taking classes during the winter and summer sessions in order to complete the program in one calendar year.

We recognize that joining “1 Year and Out” is a commitment—we want students to hit the ground running on day one. I tell students all the time: “You’ve got 12 months. Keep that goal in front of you every day, and you’ll see how quickly it goes by.”

Just as importantly, we make sure students know we’re committed to their success every step of the way, with added supports and tools like advisors, laptops, career guidance, and mentorship. The shorter program timeline attracts students who might have reservations about their ability to commit to a traditional two- or three-year program.

“1 Year and Out” was founded on the principle that criminal justice is just one part of a larger web of social justice. Our faculty are committed to helping our graduates walk out of the program as well-trained and physically fit critical thinkers who understand their place in the world. We want our graduates to be the most ethical people in the policing field.

To do that, we have built the program holistically. Our courses are often developed with a cross-curricular focus. For example, one of our faculty members is developing a literature course with texts specially selected for their criminal and social justice themes. We help our students understand that policing is just one part of the larger system of justice in our city and country. A strong understanding of economics, education, and community building will help our budding law enforcement officers contribute to communities that people are proud of.

We couldn’t do this without a strong partnership with the Chicago Police Department (CPD). For the last three years, we’ve been behind-the-scenes building this program collaboratively with input from CPD. Officers and leadership have spoken in our classes, and I’ve had the pleasure to speak at Chicago Police Headquarters.

However, CPD’s involvement doesn’t stop at program development—we’re growing a long-term partnership with the Police Department. They’re mentoring our students, visiting our classrooms twice a month, and helping us prepare our students to meet and exceed the standards of the Illinois Peace Officer Wellness Evaluation Report (POWER) test, which is the physical exam that’s required to enter the police academy. Students who complete “1 Year and Out” can even have the written portion of the admission exam waived.

We’re only a few weeks into our first cohort, and interest in the program is already growing. Every day, we hear from friends and relatives of our current cohort who want to be part of the next one. CPD is referring new candidates to us all the time. I’m excited to see how our program will positively influence the landscape of policing in Chicago. Chicago’s communities deserve a dedicated and ethical police force, and I’m so proud Olive-Harvey College is answering the call with “1 Year and Out”.

Dr. Jeffery Dillard is celebrating his tenth year at City Colleges of Chicago. A life-long Chicagoan, Dr. Dillard received his Bachelor of Science in marketing from Florida A&M University and his Juris Doctorate from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Kent College of Law. He formerly served as in-house counsel at Discover and as a partner at Dillard & Noel, Attorneys at Law. In addition to being a tenured professor at Olive-Harvey College where he teaches criminal law, Dr. Dillard serves as the chair of the Business and Professional Studies department as well Faculty Counsel president there. He is a Big Brothers/Big Sisters mentor, serves on several boards, and enjoys playing golf.