Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Dowagiac police officers establish scholarship

Dowagiac Police Department has established a criminal justice scholarship with Southwestern Michigan College.

The newly-created $500 Dowagiac Police Officers Scholarship was inaugurated to award $250 fall semester 2014 and an additional $250 for the spring semester 2015 for a total $500 scholarship for the upcoming academic year.

Restrictions include: need-based; second-year student in the Applied Science Criminal Justice program; Dowagiac Union High School graduate; and law enforcement interest in being a uniformed officer or an investigator.

Because this is an outside scholarship, it will be renewed annually.

Funds are currently being collected from contributing officers’ payroll deductions to provide $1,000 for the 2015-2016 academic year — $500 in the fall, $500 in the spring.

“We cover the college,” Dowagiac Public Safety Director Steve Grinnewald said. “With the advent of the criminal justice program, we wanted to be involved with it and be criminal justice’s go-to department. Any consulting, education, assisting they want, we wanted to be the ones because we thought it was pretty cool to bring criminal justice to this campus” last fall.

Sgt. David Davis, who, like Deputy Chief Jarrid Bradford, has spoken to criminal justice students with his presentation on Cessy the drug dog, brought the “idea of a police scholarship to help support students of the college to a command staff meeting. We discussed it and came up with a second-year student as a little more entrenched on their career path so they stick with it. It grew from there.”

“Officers jumped on board right away because they see the direct correlation between SMC, the City of Dowagiac and the community around Dowagiac,” Bradford said. “They see the community benefiting from quality students who are well-trained and well-educated coming out and back into the general area. The relationship between SMC and the city has really grown and has been a huge benefit to everybody. There are a lot of training resources which can be shared.”

“Matt (Behnke) and I were at SMC for some special function and we stood in the Student Activity Center and talked about how many officers who now work for the Dowagiac Police Department are from Dowagiac or have ties to the immediate area,” Davis said. “Even Steve, his dad was Guard commander, so he was familiar with the community as a child. We all went out of the area. I went to Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Now that this program has come here, my son is considering criminal justice, which would keep him here more economically. Whether these kids come to work for us, the Sheriff’s Office or Niles City, we’ve paid it forward. We’re not seeking outside sources, taxpayer money or anything from the department. This is funded by the officers themselves, right out of our pockets individually.”

“Before, they had to go elsewhere to get their education,” Bradford said. “With the growth of the college, down the road you’ll see growth in the city, too.”

“We’ve already had one individual in that program go through our CERT training,” Grinnewald said. “Another wants to do an internship here. It’s starting to come back to us and pay dividends. It gives us an opportunity to pay it forward. We get to meet these people and test drive them if we want to hire them down the road.”

PICTURED: Deputy Police Chief Jarrid Bradford, Dowagiac Public Safety Director Steve Grinnewald, Patrol Officer Stacey Ruth, Administrative Assistant Patty Klug, Patrol Officer James Kusa, Sgt. David Davis, Sgt. Daniel Wiggins and Patrol Officer Matthew Behnke.