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Wanted: Part-time cops, full benefits, summers off

And go to school for free, if you want

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Grand Canyon University has its own police department, presently consisting of 18 sworn officers, 180 non-sworn security officers, 17 dispatchers and three non-sworn investigators, among other personnel.

Photo/Grand Canyon University

Lots of retired cops wouldn’t mind continuing to work as cops, although maybe not as much or as intensely. If you’re in that boat, Grand Canyon University (GCU) may have a gig for you.

Discover Grand Canyon University

GCU is the biggest university you may have never heard of. Its national ads primarily emphasize the university’s online/distance learning programs that have 100,000 students enrolled. Not so well-known is the school’s traditional campus in Phoenix, Arizona that covers 1.5 by 0.5 miles in area, all of it controlled access. The campus is home to 18,000 residential students in 33 dormitories and over 100 buildings total. An additional 7000 students commute to campus each school day.

The university has its own police department, presently consisting of 18 sworn officers, 180 non-sworn security officers, 17 dispatchers and three non-sworn investigators, among other personnel. Although GCU is a private Christian university, Arizona Revised Statutes §15-1897 provides the university the authority to create a law enforcement agency.

Rob Handy is the Director of Public Safety for GCU, following a stint as the chief of the Huntington Beach (California) Police Department. He is looking to hire another 12 cops. The big difference between working for GCU versus most other law enforcement agencies is that his officers can work part time. In fact, it’s encouraged.

Summer off, flexible hours

“Our summers get very slow and it’s super hot. So cops don’t typically want to work in the summer if they can help it, or they want to be inside,” Handy told Police1. “So some of the people that might be tired of the daily grind of patrol in the city, we’re trying to attract them if they’re interested in coming over to GCU and maybe not working as much, just supplementing their income. We can still offer them full benefits. They can work three 10-hour shifts a week and then take 10-12 weeks off in the summer.”

While the GCU campus is very busy during the traditional September-May academic year, things slow down markedly in the summer, and there isn’t so much demand for police services. That allows police officers to take the summer off, if they choose.

Further, the school year work schedule is structured so that officers can work only 30 hours per week, and still be treated as a full-time employee with full benefits. Those benefits include health, dental, and vision insurance, 401K, Flexible Spending and Health Savings Accounts, and disability insurance.

Tuition waivers and additional perks

An additional benefit afforded to police officers is a tuition waiver. Employees can enroll and complete any undergraduate or graduate degree program at GCU completely tuition-free. Spouses and children are afforded an 80% tuition reduction for undergraduate programs and 50% for graduate programs. GCU estimates tuition for full-time undergraduate students at $16,500 per year, so this is no small perk.

Many retired officers who want to work a few more years must move to another state, as their own retirement system bars them from further public employment while they’re collecting retirement benefits. GCU police officers do not pay into a public retirement program, so there is no conflict for officers retired from Arizona agencies. Officers from other states would have no conflict, anyway.

Easy certification process

Arizona makes it reasonably easy for officers retired within the last three years to be certified by Arizona POST, regardless of where the applicant was previously certified. Candidates submit their training records for evaluation, then sit for a state exam. GCU also conducts a background investigation. “Usually if somebody’s from out of state, we can get it done in three to six months if the candidate is really motivated,” Handy said.

The work of a GCU police officer is much like that of campus police elsewhere, with a few advantages. Officers have some options for how they patrol their beats.

“We have bike patrol, foot patrol, or they use golf carts, and it’s really their choice. We don’t mandate any of that,” Handy said. “We ask them to get out on foot from time to time. We have some officers who like to ride around on the golf cart because they can get different places faster than they can with a car on campus, and we have others who like to ride bikes when the weather is nice. But we really leave it up to them. We have a big security department as well. We have about 180 security guards. They work hand in hand with the police officers. The police officers really support the security guards.”

Another advantage is that GCU, being a Christian college, mandates a dry campus. This is not to say that the occasional keg never makes it through the gates, but the prohibition of alcohol on campus makes enforcement more straightforward than is the case on more traditional campuses.

Ideal candidates for GCU Police

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Photo/Grand Canyon University

Chief Handy summed up the sort of candidate he’s looking for: “We look for people with good interpersonal skills, because it’s a big customer service job. Between the students, faculty and employees, there’s over 30,000 people on our campus every day during the school year and they’re interacting with them constantly. We’re like a little city. We’ve got all kinds of restaurants, dining, sporting facilities, and sporting events, including a Division One athletics program. We’ve got a ton of events. We need people with good communication skills and good interpersonal skills, but who can do police work when they need to do it.”

For more information or to apply to the Grand Canyon University Police Department, go to jobs.gcu.edu and enter the search keyword “police.”

Tim Dees is a writer, editor, trainer and former law enforcement officer. After 15 years as a police officer with the Reno Police Department and elsewhere in northern Nevada, Tim taught criminal justice as a full-time professor and instructor at colleges in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia and Oregon. He was also a regional training coordinator for the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards & Training, providing in-service training to 65 criminal justice agencies in central and eastern Oregon.
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