03/24/04 — College approves expansion of criminal justice program

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College approves expansion of criminal justice program

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 24, 2004 2:12 PM

Wayne Community College will expand its criminal justice program in the fall to enhance training in public safety and homeland security.

The board of trustees approved the concentration in "critical incident management" Tuesday night. Once passed by the state board, it will be added to the course catalog as part of the two-year associate's degree.

The program is so new, the curriculum is still being written. It could become a model followed by other schools in the community college system.

"Other colleges have already asked about it," said Beverly Deans, director of the law enforcement program at the college. "We are the first in the state to develop this as a community college."

She said the process to introduce the program began a year ago. A survey was sent out to see if there was a need and to generate interest. Ms. Deans said the response was favorable, especially from businesses.

"A lot of local employers supported the program," she said, "hoping that some of their employees will pursue it."

The program responds to a trend that is spreading nationwide, Ms. Deans said. Instead of having one area of focus, officers are being trained beyond basic law enforcement to include emergency medical certification, fire fighting and even psychology.

"Some agencies across the state are converting to 'public safety officers' and 'public safety departments,'" she said.

Two new courses will be added to the three that are already available in the community college system. The new classes are in critical incident management and introduction to terrorism. Whether the student pursues a four-year degree or enters the workforce upon completion of the program, Ms. Deans said, he will be a much better-prepared officer.

Because society is constantly changing and along with it the needs for emergency preparedness, she said, law enforcement is taking a different approach to different events.

She said incidents such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Columbine school shootings were not the first tragedies of their kind, yet they marked a turning point in public reaction.

"There's no way you can teach or properly prepare with the ever-changing society that we live in today," she said. "Not only are the laws changing, but people are changing and so are the needs of society."

Other things are also changing -- terrorist targets, why terrorists target America -- but there is no manual to work from, she said.

"We're not having a lot of luck finding a true textbook on the subject," Ms. Deans said.

So she and Duane Everhart, head of the public services and personnel department, will pool their resources and research and create their own.

"Duane will write the text for the criminal incident management course and I will write the one on terrorism," she said.

She said the critical incident management course focuses on understanding and managing disasters, terrorism and school or workplace violence. The terrorism course delves into weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological and nuclear terrorism, and recognizing a terrorist crime scene.

Ms. Deans said one thing being planned as a teaching tool will be a mock display of a miniature town to illustrate that criminal incidents can happen anywhere and how the community is affected. A table-top village will be constructed to demonstrate how terrorism plays out for business and industry, municipalities, and the people.

The public schools are also going to be involved in the program. Southern Wayne High School recently had 29 students participate in a mock crime scene and will offer the program in the fall as an elective.

A Wayne Community College instructor will teach two courses each term at the high school, for which students will receive both high school and college credit.

Ms. Deans said a lot of work has already been done to launch this addition to the criminal justice technology program and noted she is excited about what it will mean for the college and its students.

"I like to see our people trained in a multi-task way," she said. "This is the cutting edge. It gives us something to strive for."