Security Student Serves with Polish National Police

Military officers guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Poland.
Military officers guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Poland.

Michael Knighton learned about the Polish National Police from those who know it best: the officers that patrol the streets and the instructors that teach recruits in Poland.

Knighton, a Graduate Student in Security Studies at Sam Houston State University, spent 5-1/2 weeks in Poland as part of a unique internship opportunity. As a graduate student assistant, he drives foreign law enforcement officials for the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas and recently met the Polish delegation. Now, Knighton was the visitor in a foreign land, his first non-vacation trip outside the U.S.

"They are very generous people, and they are very kind," said Knighton. "They have been through a lot in the past 100 years. After WWII, Poland was devastated and, in 1940, the Russians massacred many police officers."

In Poland, all levels of police are unified under the Polish National Police. Knighton attended their upper level academy for ranking officers in Szczytno, a part of the Lakes Region of the country. There he sat in on classes in the Law Institute, the Terrorism and Organized Crime Institute, and the Policing Institute. He also participated in the special training department, which instructs police cadets in firearms, first aid and hand-to-hand combat.

"Everything I did was mostly international relations," Knighton said.

The Law Institute teaches police officers about the laws they will enforce in Poland, while the Policing Institute provides instruction on day-to-day operations of a police department. Knighton said the Polish National Police are mainly focused on patrolling and prevention.

"It was interesting to see what they focus on," said Knighton. "They do not focus on traffic. In the entire time I was there, I never saw anyone pulled over."

Knighton also said that Poland is part of the European Union and must follow that agency’s laws, which include a prohibition on the death penalty. In addition, the country follows the Schengen Agreement and Convention, which allows extradition of suspects among European nations.

The Terrorism and Organized Crime Unit focuses on threats against the country, recently driven by the country’s participation in the Iraq and Afghanistan War, along with organized crime.

During his visit, Knighton discovered the similarities and differences between policing in the U.S. and Poland and shared his knowledge and experience on American terrorism and policing with cadets and civilians in that country. Knighton said Poland’s gun laws are stricter, and the country has different use-of-force laws, which include a set procedure on how and when it can be used and a restriction on having a bullet in the chamber of a police weapon.

Knighton also got to experience policing at the local level. He toured the department in Sopot in northern Poland and did a ride-along with officers. During his stay, Knighton also participated in conferences on human rights and Interpol and interacted with representatives from Spain, Turkey and Hungary.

Knighton expects to graduate in December and hopes to turn his studies into a career in international law enforcement or international relations.

"This opened my eyes to other cultures," Knighton said. "I was impressed by their dedication. They don’t get paid a lot but they are very dedicated to their jobs. This is an experience everyone can really learn a lot from. You can see how other countries and cultures interact in a international law enforcement setting."

Knighton is among 125 students a year selected to participate in internship programs at the College of Criminal Justice, including international, federal, state, county and local law enforcement and correction agencies as well victims’ services and private security. Internships are encouraged for undergraduate and graduate students and include a full-time, 40-hour assignment in an agency for a semester. Undergraduates earn nine semester hour credits and graduate students earn six.

The College of Criminal Justice offers several international opportunities, including INTERPOL; the Metropolitan Police – New Scotland Yard in London; the Department of Primax Industries in Boating and Fisheries in Queensland; and Shepp Johnman and Associates Investigators in Canada and the U.S.

"Today many criminal operations are international in scope," said Dr. Jim Dozier, Internship Coordinator for the College of Criminal Justice. "The ability to place our interns in other countries to learn is exciting. It is a great opportunity for both the student and the Criminal Justice program at SHSU."

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