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New twist on ROTC: New York looks at police corps

'' 'Tention!'' No, they're not in the Army now. But, soon - perhaps by the coming spring term - students at state-run and private colleges in New York State could be standing at attention in a new version of the old ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) course of study.

And this time, they'll be in the state's ''police corps.''

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The police corps was recently proposed here by a panel of law-enforcement experts as a practical way of substantially increasing police manpower in communities from Niagara Falls to New York City without putting additional strain on the state's troubled budget.

The proposal has won widespread bipartisan endorsement and is being fashioned into legislation for introduction early in the next session of the Legislature, which begins in January. Public and private institutions of higher learning would offer full or partial college scholarships, depending on an individual student's financial situation, in exchange for three years of service as a New York State police officer.

Proponents say the money to pay for the scholarships would come from a mixture of private and public sources. State funds channeled into the program would come by ''trimming the fat'' from existing law-enforcement programs, according to one law-enforcement expert who worked on the proposal.

John Keenan, New York City's criminal justice coordinator, says he thoroughly studied every aspect of the police-corps proposal andwholeheartedly endorses it, despite some opposition from police union officials. These officials are concerned about the possibility that the future hiring of permanent personnel would be curbed after the ''short term'' officers come on board. Proponents of the proposal counter that with state budget conditions being the way they are - the state is currently facing its biggest deficit in many years - it will be sometime before the permanent police force ranks grow in any event.

Adam Walinksy, the chairman of the law-enforcement panel that called for the creation of a police corps, says the corps would begin on a small scale and grow larger, one day possibly comprising thousands as the idea is tested and found viable. Police officials in California, Massachusetts, and other states are interested in the idea and will closely watch what happens here in the next year.

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