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Northwestern University Center for Public Safety

Since its founding in 1936, Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety (NUCPS) has conducted more than 6,500 courses and taught more than 200,000 students from all 50 states and 38 foreign countries. In fact, NUCPS has taught more professionals in law enforcement and related fields than the next four largest of such U.S. institutions combined.

In addition to offering classes on its Northwestern University campus in Evanston, Ill., NUCPS has the ability to retrofit any of its programs to meet any agency’s specific needs at the location of their choice through its experience in delivering customized programs and courses.
NUCPS was founded as the Traffic Institute by an Evanston police commander with a vision. At that time, the number of motor vehicle deaths and injuries was skyrocketing, and there was little or no information published on roadway safety or crash investigations. Determined to save lives, Commander Franklin M. Kreml began to collect data on traffic crash hot spots and began a program to teach crash investigation and roadway safety.

Today the crash investigation program consists of a series of classes totaling about six weeks in topics ranging from “Crash Investigation” and “Crash Reconstruction,” to “Math and Physics Workshop for Crash Reconstruction.” The classes are geared toward police officers, but many transportation engineers, insurance adjusters and crash investigators from private firms also take the classes. Classes in each part of the series range from three to 10 days and cost between $500 to around $1,000.

NUCPS is known for its Traffic Collision Investigation textbook, which is a manual that set the standard for traffic crash investigation. It was the first of its kind when written in 1940 and continues to be published today.

The Traffic Institute quickly became the world leader in traffic crash investigation and prevention and has maintained that reputation ever since. This year the school is celebrating 75 years of education, and the school’s flagship program is its School of Police Staff and Command (SPSC), which is an intensive 10-week program that prepares law enforcement managers for senior positions by combining academic principles with practical applications.

“SPSC is a command level program that teaches officers at the command level all the skills, theories and techniques needed to be a successful law enforcement administrator,” said Jason Stamps, the director of the professional training division at Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety.

The class requires students to write a research paper on a topic chosen by the student, and it’s typically a problem that a student’s agency faces. Topics include training, staffing problems, budget issues and use-of-force policies.

The fee for the SPCS 10-week course varies depending on the host agency but is generally close to the $3,125 fee when taken at the Center’s Evanston Campus. This year the course is being offered in 10 different cities, including Columbus; Baton Rouge; Gilbert, Ariz. and Lisle, Ill.

While the Center does not offer degrees in its crash investigations program or any of its other courses, it does offer two courses that give undergraduate course credits which can be applied toward an undergraduate degree. In its SPSC program, students earn 21 college semester credits, and in its Supervision of Police Personnel (SPP) program students earn 3 college semester credits. The SPP is a two-week course that teaches soon-to-be or newly promoted supervisors how to make a successful transition from officer to supervisor.

There are a few online-only courses offered through the school; the most popular are the self-paced “Intro to Police Supervision” course, which helps officers prep for upcoming exams such as the Sergeant’s exam, and the self-paced Crash Investigation 1 and 2 courses.

Instructors are made up of a mix of experienced current or retired law enforcement officers and industry experts. Instructors combine academic credentials and relevant work experience to provide meaningful educational experiences for all students. Students learn in interactive, intellectual environments equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Students also learn from each other, as classes always contain a mix of positions and experience levels.

If your department is looking to make one of its officers a crash investigations specialist, NUCPS has the history to teach you all the skills you need; and if you’re looking forward to your first promotion the Center will provide you with the most effective and innovative approach to your continuing education.

Yesenia Salcedo is the managing editor for LAW and ORDER magazine. She may be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Apr 2011

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