Sixteen cadets from the Zhejiang Police College in Hangzhou, China are spending their junior year at SHSU’s College of Criminal Justice learning about the American criminal justice system. To see theory in practice, the cadets spent five days at the two neighboring police departments experiencing community policing at the local level.
"I think it benefits everybody concerned," said Dr. Phillip Lyons, a SHSU professor and former Alvin police officer. "Students clearly walk away with very good experiences and a much better understanding of the criminal justice system. Many of them report these few days are the most meaningful of their experiences in the United States."
"The officers on the American side also benefit in a couple of ways," Dr. Lyons added. "They understand other countries’ policing styles a little better and they know there are other ways of doing business. But more importantly for our officers, it causes them to look at their own system in a different way. When these students ask questions, it forces us to think about how and why we do things… Also, I noticed a big benefit to the community. They have a sense of pride that they have been chosen."
During the internship, cadets patrolled with officers from the two police department and received firearms training. Some cadets toured the Galveston County Courthouse, while those in Alvin, which is in Brazoria County, visited the Bayou Wildlife Park.
For Chinese Cadet Jun (Charles) Wu, it provided an opportunity to learn more about the technology employed by American police departments to track and predict crime.
"I really want to learn new technology here," said Wu. "We have police cars in China, but our technology is not as good as here. Americans put data together and analyze them. In my hometown, they put data together, but we didn’t analyze the data as well as our USA friends did."
Alvin Police Chief Mike Merkel said this is a historic collaboration with a communist country.
"The Chinese government is willing to send police cadets to learn academics from Sam Houston State University and to apply those theories in the communities of Alvin and League City," said Merkel. "Law enforcement is law enforcement. No matter where you are, you are dealing with people, special needs and issues, and public safety and security. It’s all relative."
As part of the experience, cadets were housed by police officers’ families or community leaders during their stay. This allowed cadets to be immersed in the community and the job.
"There is a vast difference in our cultures," said Patrol Sergeant Tamara Spencer of League City. "There is a running joke at the police department that they make us feel so rude. They are infinitely polite and respectful. I think they are shocked because of all the weapons we carry. I think we best teach them technical skills. As far as being polite, they have that down."
Kexin (Cathy) Liu said she has used the experience to learn the skills of report-writing and research.
"They impressed me a lot with how they do their reports,” Liu said. “They are very patient. I want to introduce their experience especially their technology to China."
Dr. Qiuming Yu of Zhejiang Police College said it has been a "great experience" for the Chinese students.
"They can share some ideas," said Yu, who is supervising the Chinese students in America. "China is opening up to the world, and the things that are happening here will be in the future in China so they will have the experience to deal with these things. Students told me that here they can touch the heart of policing. They can follow procedures and how police fulfill their purpose to serve the people. We can plant the seeds in their hearts so they will know what to do to improve their precincts in China."