Vol State Students Experience the Real World of Criminal Investigation

Submitted on December 07, 2009 at 8:22 AM

It's a reality check for students. Jim Green from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is separating actual police work from what people see on the popular criminal investigation TV shows. He points out that everything takes a lot longer in the real world and the forensic work is much less dramatic. For the Volunteer State Community College students it's a close-up view of criminal justice.

"You have to be broadminded in law enforcement," Green tells the students. " You have to look at every possibility."

The students are on a tour of TBI headquarters as part of their Intro to Criminal Justice class. It's just one way they get to see the many sides of law enforcement. Kevin Cook, instructor in the Criminal Justice Program at Vol State, says the field has many job opportunities.

"People think of police work or corrections, but it's much more than that," said Cook. "Students need to be better educated than in years past. There's a lot to learn: the legal world, computer skills and written skills. Law enforcement is also using technology more than ever before."

Whether it is computer research using databases or complex forensic investigations, law enforcement has many specializations. The Vol State program is designed to give students a basic foundation of knowledge.

"There is a strong emphasis on hands-on learning," said Cook.

Cook has an extensive background that includes juvenile corrections, U.S. Customs investigations, and work as a special investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. That position placed him in charge of government clearances and the investigation of federal employees. "You need someone teaching who has practical experience in the field," said Cook. "When I teach about search warrants I draw on my experience. I've written search warrants and served arrest warrants."

Green shows the students TBI chemical labs, toxicology and firearm testing. While they can't go into the labs due to strict evidence control, the students are impressed.

"Seeing how people work in forensic science and how an actual lab works is really cool," said student Lindsey Johnson of Old Hickory.

"I think the science of it is pretty cool," said Trista Hunter of Portland. "I'm interested in detective work, maybe someday at the federal level."

The Vol State Criminal Justice Program can lead to a certificate or a two-year associate's degree. Some criminal justice jobs require bachelor's degrees and the program is designed to transfer many courses to universities. For more information visit www.volstate.edu/CriminalJustice or call 615-230-3231.

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