Like typical graduates, they crossed the stage, shook hands with faculty and received the document that signified their accomplishment.
But they weren’t typical graduates at all. One was a decorated Marine, and many had seen colleagues killed in the line of duty. They were law enforcement officers who had earned a certificate of completion from the Administrative Officers Management Program (AOMP), the oldest continuously operating extension program in CHASS.
Since it was launched in 1989, AOMP — designed to develop management and leadership skills within law enforcement — has graduated more than 1,700 officers from 140 different agencies and 13 different states. The most recent class comprised more than 365 years of law enforcement experience.
AOMP by the Numbers
- Launched in 1989
- 1,727 graduates from 141 agencies in 13 states and 3 countries
- 950 graduates have been promoted since completing AOMP
- Promotions for graduates include 18 chiefs, 1 sheriff and 12 deputy or assistant chiefs
- 4 chiefs have attended AOMP
“Our students, many of whom have families of their own, come to Raleigh and live together at the North Carolina State Highway Patrol barracks for three months to participate in the program,” says James Horner, AOMP’s director from 1995 until his retirement in December 2012. “They spend their days in the classroom and their evenings working on homework and papers in a dorm room with classmates. The program is extremely intensive, especially considering that most of our participants haven’t set foot in a classroom in quite some time.”
Lieutenant Charles Lee (AOMP ’00), an officer with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, well remembers the grueling workload. “My friends who completed master’s degrees never took that many courses in one semester,” he says. “And along with a full course load, I still had duties and responsibilities at work. And I was taking care of my home with my wife and two young daughters. It was definitely challenging.”
AOMP participants spend 12 weeks taking five three-credit-hour courses on subjects such as managing police organizational behavior and applied police research. They have class projects, homework, papers and exams. Inside and outside the classroom, officers work together in teams to share ideas and expertise while building camaraderie that lasts long after the program concludes. Graduates have formed an AOMP alumni association to keep in touch, and they often return to attend graduation ceremonies and support their newest peers’ accomplishments.
As the liaison between AOMP and the State Highway Patrol’s training academy, Lee coordinates and schedules patrol members for each session. He estimates the number of graduation ceremonies he has attended at 15 and counting. “I run into AOMP alums up and down the East Coast,” he says. “The connections I’ve made through AOMP are priceless.”
Stacey Hahn (AOMP ’00), who retired from the Mecklenberg County Sheriff’s Office in 2006 as deputy sheriff, agrees. “The AOMP is an excellent program. You form a kind of secondary family with your classmates. There is a lot of emotion that comes with assisting each other and really digging deep within yourself to become a better person. It is very rewarding to graduate from this program and have the feeling you can accomplish so much more, both at work and at home.”
Law enforcement agencies choose officers to participate in the program — a significant investment of manpower, time and resources for these organizations.
“Sending officers to participate in the AOMP program takes a major commitment on the part of the agency,” Horner says. “They are usually losing an employee for 12 weeks while also footing the bill for the program. The fact that the same organizations enroll employees into our program time and time again shows that they obviously value what we’re teaching and recognize that the material is extremely valuable in the field.”
Graduates of the AOMP program have gone on to serve in high-ranking positions: police chiefs, directors, lieutenants and more. The majority of participants have been promoted to “command staff” positions in their respective agencies.
“Many law enforcement agencies are buying into the philosophy and the way of thinking that permeates the AOMP program,” Horner says. “Our graduates think similarly and work well together. We like that organizations continue to invest in sending folks to us. It helps them establish a productive work culture.”
Major Deborah Regentin (AOMP ’09) has seen those benefits firsthand in the Raleigh Police Department.
“I think most of the upper ranks of the Raleigh PD — captains, majors, deputy chiefs — are AOMP graduates,” Regentin says. “It’s allowed us to have a shared culture and shared mindset that help make working together more productive. As police officers, we entered this line of work because we tend to be very black and white in our thinking. There’s the law, and there’s breaking the law. But when you enter into a management position, there has to be room for flexibility and creativity. AOMP taught us that.”
Regentin says the value of a program like AOMP, formed in and supported by a land-grant institution, cannot be overstated. “The fact that we, at the Raleigh Police Department, have a program like this at a university that’s essentially in our backyard — it’s a resource that we’ve got to continue to use,” Regentin says. “And I know we will.”
By Caroline Barnhill
This article first appeared in the college's 2013 alumni magazine, Accolades.