Turkish police train in Western criminology at institute

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

After the United States was attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, Suleyman Ozeren, a captain in the Turkish National Police Force, was glad he could share his knowledge about terrorist groups with Americans as a student in the University of North Texas ' Turkish Institute for Police Studies.

"Because it is on two continents, Turkey is a bridge between countries for organized crime," said Ozeren, who is a specialist on cyberterrorism. "We have been struggling against terrorism for more than three decades. September 11 showed that terrorism is not just one country's problem -- it's every country's problem."

Housed in the university's Department of Criminal Justice, the institute, known as TIPS, brings officers of the Turkish National Police Force to the United States for two to six years to earn master's or doctoral degrees in criminal justice or related fields.

All students spend their first four months in the institute at UNT, taking two survey courses on U.S. criminal justice systems. They may also learn English through UNT's Intensive English Language Institute if their Test of English as a Foreign Language scores are not high enough to qualify them for admission to a U.S. university graduate program.

After their first semester, the TIPS students stay at UNT or transfer to one of 26 other partner universities to earn master 's or doctoral degrees. Sam Houston State University in Huntsville is the only partner university located in Texas.

Master's students must complete their degrees in two years before returning to Turkey, while doctoral students may spend four years completing their degrees before returning. All training is coordinated with the Turkish National Police Force.

The force is "technologically very modern with outstanding leadership, but, unfortunately, overly bureaucratic and administrative," says Dr. Robert Taylor, chair of the UNT Department of Criminal Justice.

"The force is also not as community-oriented as police departments in the U.S., " he says. "Turkey wants to redesign its force to be in line with Western ideology. The country is very Westernized, but wants to still maintain its Eastern and Muslim identity."

Taylor points out that police officers throughout the world have much more in common than other professionals from different countries.

"We share the problems of crime and terrorism," he says.

Taylor, who has studied police responses to terrorism for 20 years, started the institute at the request of the Turkish government.

His ties to Turkey began in the mid 1980s, when he was an instructor at the U.S. Department of Treasury's Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia. He met the agency's deputy chief in Istanbul and was invited to visit the city, where he met the mayor and chief of police. He later met the Turkish prime minister and became a consultant to Turkey's national government.

The institute's first 11 students arrived at UNT in the fall of 1999. Today, approximately 160 are enrolled either at UNT or one of the partner universities.

The first master's students graduated in 2001, and the first doctoral students will graduate in August.

Dincer Gunes, who serves on the Turkish National Police in the capital on Ankara, was among the first students. After earning his master's degree from UNT, he went home to Turkey for two years to teach at the force's police academy. He returned to UNT last year to enter the doctoral degree program in sociology, and plans to resume teaching and researching when he returns home.

"The Turkish police force is one of the best-educated forces in the world because officers must earn what is the equivalent of a college degree from the police academy to be hired," he says. "We believe education is the key to fighting crime and terrorism."

Izzet Lofca, who entered TIPS last year to earn a doctoral degree in information studies from UNT, sees the institute as "a collaboration between the Turkish nation and American institutions."

"Because the Turkish National Police is mostly based on Germany 's national police system, there's a big need to send officers to America to learn about new research and give the force new directions," says Lofca, who holds the rank of major.

Since the institute began, its students have made presentations at police conferences throughout the United States. The institute is planning an international conference with the Turkish National Police that will be held in Istanbul in May.

Students in the institute also share their expertise with UNT criminal justice students. The institute's doctoral students teach some undergraduate courses as teaching fellows.

"Because all of the Turkish students are mid-level executives, our students have found it enjoyable to l earn from them," Taylor says. "They bring in a wealth of experience and global perspectives."

He says the students who are enrolled for this year are "some of the hardest-working and most intelligent students we have ever had in our program."

Lofca, who is the president of UNT's Turkish Student Association, says TIPS students are educating UNT students about more than police work. He notes that many Americans believe Turkey is a desert with many camels, when actually much of the nation is covered in forests and includes large lakes and rivers and mountains and ski resorts.

"The UNT students tend to think that Turkey is an undeveloped country and we live in caves," he says. " But our country is a melting pot, with different regions and religions."

Selcuk Zengin, who came to TIPS to earn a doctoral degree in information science, says he's glad to educate Americans as well as international students from other countries about Turkey. "UNT is kind of a United Nations," says Zengin, who holds the rank of major. "I have friends here from all over the world."

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108