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Criminal Justice: Training students to protect and serve

A judge, computer forensics expert, FBI agent, attorney, police detective, state trooper – when you take Tidewater Community College criminal justice (ADJ) classes, you learn from those who have been there, done that.

“We are proud that our faculty brings extensive education and experience from the field,” said Don Haley, program head at the Virginia Beach Campus and a former Marine and Virginia Beach Police detective. “We may be teaching lessons from the textbook, but we make the material come alive by sharing real-life, practical applications in our classrooms. We also serve as resources for each other.”

Diamon Stephens works the Don Haley, program head at the Virginia Beach Campus during a fingerprinting exercise
Diamon Stephens works with Don Haley, program
head at the Virginia Beach Campus during a
fingerprinting exercise

To add to this real-life education, a new forensics lab opened on the Virginia Beach Campus in fall 2013. The lab gives students the opportunity to experience hands-on learning with the latest in forensics technology, as it relates to fingerprinting, blood, shoe impressions, castings, photography, facial recognition software and more.

The Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice is a 66-credit program that prepares students for careers in law enforcement. Class offerings include criminology; criminal law, evidence and procedures; law enforcement organization and administration; introduction to corrections; the juvenile justice system and a supervised study that includes an 80-hour internship with local police departments or court systems.

Antonio Passaro, program head at the Norfolk Campus and a retired special agent for high-tech crimes for the Virginia State Police, has reactivated and revised ADJ 247, which is a psychological behavior class, as well as ADJ 231, community policing.

“It’s important to keep the conversation going between law enforcement and neighborhoods, and this class shows ways to do just that,” Passaro said.

The criminal justice organization on the Portsmouth Campus: back row, Greg Foriest, Rayford Walker, Kenya Speight (president), professor Rick James; front row, Deangelo Clarke, Krystyn King, Olivia Hammack, Richard Smith and Shawn Allen.
The criminal justice organization on the Portsmouth
Campus: back row, Greg Foriest, Rayford Walker,
Kenya Speight (president), professor Rick James;
front row, Deangelo Clarke, Krystyn King, Olivia
Hammack, Richard Smith and Shawn Allen.

Portsmouth Campus program head Rick James, an Army veteran and retired Norfolk Police commander, is working to add a street law class noting, “If you graduate with a two-year degree, you should have a basic idea of what criminal and civil law entails. I’d like to see every student take this course.”

The Portsmouth Campus has ramped up the program by launching a criminal justice organization for students. “We wanted to give our students some of the same experiences they would get at four-year schools,” James said. “We’re building on what students are learning in the classroom and ensuring that they are educated on the Constitution and the criminal justice system.”

Students involved in the criminal justice organization participate in a range of activities from a campus clean-up to meeting with a Norfolk judge in federal court. They also toured all TCC campuses and completed a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design survey; during the activity they looked at lighting, security and other areas to determine that TCC’s campuses are indeed safe.

Chesapeake Campus program head Bill Pearsall, a retired Fairfax Police officer and attorney, said the criminal justice program is important because we are teaching the theoretical underpinnings necessary for those who will serve in law enforcement. “The public’s expectations are high, and we must train our people to exceed those expectations,” he said. “Law enforcement officers will ultimately have authority and the ability to use deadly force. They must be educated, balanced individuals.”

Bill Pearsall, program head at the Chesapeake Campus, works with students during a scenario.
Bill Pearsall, program head at the Chesapeake Campus,
works with students during a scenario.

All criminal justice program heads agree that in law enforcement, thinking on your feet is critical. In every classroom across the college, faculty members lead students in mock scenarios, where they practice making quick decisions that will protect the public. “These scenarios are where the rubber meets the road,” Pearsall said.

“We spend plenty of time on our feet, working with training weapons and conducting practical scenarios to teach students how to respond in different situations,” Passaro added.

At the Chesapeake Campus, students advance their learning using the campus firing range simulator. “Selected students are taught by a Chesapeake sheriff, under very close supervision,” Pearsall said. The range class teaches firearm safety, familiarization and introduces students to the equipment used in local law enforcement.

“As faculty and former officers, we understand the awesome responsibility that these students may eventually be entrusted with as law enforcement personnel,” Pearsall said. “The public depends on them, and one day it may be one of our loved ones in need of their services.”

“I want students to know for sure that this is the career for them,” Haley added. “Through all we do, we must never lose our human side and remember that we are here to protect and serve.”