Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Patrick Solar
Dr. Patrick Solar, assistant professor of criminal justice, teaches courses (both face-to-face and online) in interviewing techniques, including analysis of body language; police administration; comparative criminal justice; and police-community relations. He began teaching at UW-Platteville in fall 2013.
Originally from Antioch, Ill., Solar earned a doctorate in political philosophy with a specialization in organizational development from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., and a master’s in public administration, also from NIU. Solar was a police officer for nearly 30 years, serving as a street officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant and chief of police. Police management and supervision are particular areas of his expertise, as he served in this capacity for most of his career.
Solar has been developing in-service courses and teaching for the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board for more than 20 years. In addition, he taught new chief training and supervisory programs at the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board Executive Institute at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill. He currently teaches for Northwestern University Center for Public Safety, School of Police Staff and Command, in Evanston, Ill.
Since retiring from policing in 2010, he has also taught criminology, criminalistics, criminal law and police administration at Kishwaukee Community College in Malta, Ill.
What is most rewarding about pursuing a career in criminal justice or forensic investigation?
Few careers offer us the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals. Working in criminal justice provides daily opportunities to do exactly that. The choices practitioners make have both immediate and long-term effects that can help shape the very nature of a community. Our program seeks to arm students with the knowledge and wisdom to make great choices.
What do you think are the most important things those in law enforcement can do to ensure positive police-community relations?
The most important thing a law enforcement officer must do is to treat each and every person they encounter with dignity and respect. It is incredibly easy, in this field, to look down on people, usually as a result of the choice that they have made. The best police officers seek to understand why people make bad choices, hold them accountable for those choices and then suggest alternatives. Good cops do not take the inappropriate behavior of individuals personally nor do they seek to judge people.
What do you think are the most important things those in the community can do to ensure positive police-community relations?
People in every community need to understand that the job of maintaining order is not something the police can do alone. Simple things like picking up trash and keeping our homes and property well maintained go a long way toward communicating a sense of caring. When it is clear that people care, those who are intent on crime and disorder become uncomfortable, and will usually seek opportunities elsewhere.
What are the essential personal and professional qualities a person in law enforcement must possess in order to be successful?
Great police officers are “people” people. You have to enjoy working with others, be willing to face confrontation and be highly tolerant of those who hold very different opinions. The key to success is a very high level of emotional intelligence, backed-up with excellent interpersonal communication skills.
Can you explain the university’s agreement with Rockford High School and how it will benefit the students at RHS and UW-Platteville?
The idea is to spark interest in our program, and college generally, with students who may not be so inclined. Offering the opportunity for high school students to earn college credit benefits them as well as creates a draw for our program. We are currently offering the Introduction to Crime Scene Investigation course taught by a supervisor from the Rockford Police Department. The content for this course is exactly the same as our on-campus offering. It requires a level of academic rigor that gives these students a glance at college work and hopefully ignites their interest in pursuing their degree.
This has been a very tough year for law enforcement. A nagging and very valid issue is the underrepresentation of African Americans in policing. I believe the Rockford initiative holds promise in addressing this problem by exposing inner city youth to the policing perspective, bringing them here for an education and hopefully sparking their interest in returning to Rockford and actually joining the police department. I also believe that we, here at the university, have additional opportunities to address this issue through the recruitment and education of qualified African Americans in the field of criminal justice from other communities. As a former police chief, I am certain that these individuals will be highly sought after in the field.
Interview conducted by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education. To nominate someone for the Pioneer Spotlight, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.