As director of MU Extension’s Law Enforcement Training Institute, Dr. John Worden plays a major role in connecting Mizzou resources with the community. Worden was a Columbia Police Officer for 21 years, and started working with MU Extension and Engagement in 2011. After receiving a Ph.D. from the College of Education, he accepted the position of Director of the Law Enforcement Training Institute.

Worden is currently working on the development of the Center for Excellence & First Responder Education which will be a new facility focused on providing training and other resources to first responders. He is hoping that the center will help promote their mission and generate more funding to train firefighters, EMTs, and police officers in rural communities. For Worden, it is important to engagement with the rural Missouri, as a large percentage of Missouri’s population, and first responders, live in rural communities. Worden says, “That’s where we continually talk about, “How can we help our rural communities?”, that’s where our bloodline really is.”

Worden says that these communities sometimes lack funding or resources that could improve training of first responders. He wants to find the best ways to utilize the resources of the University of Missouri to make sure that new technology that could help first responders is also made available to rural communities across the state. Worden says, “Us being able to offer something [to] make those communities safer, or we can make those communities healthier by responding to the accidents, injury, crime, or whatever that might be, I think that that’s our mission.” However, rather than making assumptions about what rural communities might need from the center, Worden believes that it is important to find out from them what they need and then tailor a program that makes the best use of time and resources.

Worden is hoping to provide other communities with Panacea’s Cloud, a new invention designed by MU Engineering to help first responders communicate during natural disasters, a program that is “the land-grant mission at its best,” says Worden. He believes that funding for the Cloud could come from local businesses who see the value in first responders having access to this resource. Worden added that funding for the Center for Excellence & First Responder Education’s efforts can come from a variety of sources including the private and public sectors. He believes that the Center has the potential to expand its efforts on a national scale and help states beyond Missouri as well. Wordon is hoping the launch of the center will take place in early 2020.