JWCC criminal justice program collaborates with local law enforcement to help attract new officers

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QUINCY — Students in the criminal justice program at John Wood Community College already benefit by learning from practicing attorneys and current law enforcement professionals in the classroom. The experiences outside of the classroom, through ride-alongs and simulated policing scenarios, are where the profession truly comes to life as a career pathway for students.

The need for local officers from diverse backgrounds has led to a deepened collaboration between JWCC and local law enforcement agencies such as the Quincy Police Department. JWCC alumnus and QPD chief of police Adam Yates is committed to educating future officers and criminal justice professionals on the rewards of the field.

In a press release, Yates said, “We have such an opportunity to grow and train our own officers and retain students who come to the Quincy area from nearby states. Talking with students in the classroom is one thing, but we advise those with an interest in the field to take part in a ride-along or be part of a job shadow or internship to witness some of the real-life scenarios that officers experience daily. We’ve renewed this effort with JWCC along with the outstanding knowledge they get firsthand from practicing attorneys and former officers and prosecutors in the classroom.”

Yates, along with members of his team and members of the Adams County Sheriff’s Department, present information in JWCC classrooms, offer job shadows and internships and take part in various recruitment events to educate prospective students on the rewards of being part of the public safety sector.

Criminal justice professionals can include police officers, fire fighters, social workers, bailiffs, crime scene investigators and political science or pre-law students. Individuals entering law enforcement can take many paths to enter the field, with an associate degree being a key factor in the application process.

JWCC Dean of Arts and Sciences Rachel Hansen teaches JWCC’s criminal law, juvenile justice and law enforcement overview courses. She shares her unique perspective as a practicing attorney and former St. Louis City prosecutor.

“Students need to know exactly what they will experience in the criminal justice system so they can find their path within the profession,” Hansen shared. “Being able to get a sense of skills needed is important. For police officers, earning an associate degree helps them as they are considered for positions after the academy. For future attorneys, understanding the daily duties of police officers helps them prepare cases.  Our faculty introduce the many aspects of the profession and give them an inside look into each as soon as possible.”

JWCC will introduce virtual reality and additional real-world simulations as part of course studies this spring.

The simulations allow students to experience different scenarios, such as a confrontation with a suspect, domestic disturbance, testifying before a judge or an active shooter situation. VR simulations offer a safe and realistic way to train officers in how to respond to different situations under pressure, review their reactions and develop strategies to improve approaches and decision making.

JWCC and the local law enforcement community have worked to make additional funding available to students pursuing a career in the criminal justice field.

Gary and Shelia McElfresh, with the Adams County Sheriff’s Department, created a scholarship in 2009 through the JWCC Foundation in memory of the late Matthew McElfresh, who served as a sheriff’s deputy. Full- or part-time students are eligible for the award. Criteria for the scholarship includes motivation to pursue a career in law enforcement, residency in Adams County, a grade point average between 2.00-3.25 on a 4.00 scale and potential, character, leadership, career goals and willingness to succeed.

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