Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, Dordt University criminal justice students have had numerous opportunities for hands-on activities, learning experiences, and interaction with law enforcement and professionals from a variety of agencies this spring.
During a typical semester, students in the criminal justice program might have the opportunity to participate in off-campus visits to a firearm training simulator in Sioux City where they experience the split-second legal and life decision making when faced with an attacker—challenging them to learn about how situations can quickly escalate or deescalate. Another place students might typically visit is the South Dakota State Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison.
Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic this year, these opportunities were unavailable to students. But Jon Moeller, Dordt University criminal justice instructor and retired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent, did not let that stop him from offering unique and valuable experiences to his students.
In April, students were able to participate in a training with the Woodbury County Sheriff’s office in Sioux City, Iowa, where they learned about responses to active shooters. The students had the chance to participate as actors in simulations, where a variety of Woodbury County responders such as law enforcement, emergency medical services (EMS), and dispatchers would be trained. The students also had the opportunity to go through the scenario as a cop at the end of the training sessions.
“I found it very interesting to observe the process that police officers had to go through when responding to a shooting scene,” says Kyle Laarman, a senior studying criminal justice from Taber, Alberta, Canada.
Laarman appreciated the training and found it eye-opening in the steps needed to respond saying, “Just how important it is for police officers to approach scenes carefully, thoughtfully, and follow a process in an almost religious manner.”
Moeller has also welcomed a variety of guests to his classes this semester, who were able to share their experiences in the industry with students. In the Crime Scene Investigation class, these guests have included a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), who shared about his experience as an investigator in the 2018 Austin bombings; a supervisory special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and a deputy from the Sioux County Sheriff who has assisted Moeller with training students in rolling prints, analyzing blood spatter, and making castings. Some of these guests also use the on-campus visit for recruiting for their various agencies.
Laarman shares that these off-campus experiences and some of the guest speakers have been some of his favorite experiences in the program.
The Victimology and Family Violence class also welcomed a couple guests, including a retired agent from the Division of Criminal Investigation for the state of Iowa, and a Zoom class with Alicia “Kozak” Kozakiewicz, who is a victim and missing person advocate, who was kidnapped as an Internet-related abduction victim as a child. Moeller was an agent involved in the safe return of Kozak back in 2002 during his time in the FBI; he reunited with her for the first time at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in 2019 when they both assisted NCMEC with the creation of a guide for law enforcement to reference when serving victims and their families.
Students seeking a career in law enforcement also had the opportunity to participate in mock job interviews with current and retired officers from the state, county, and local levels. This is an opportunity for them to experience what the process might look like in the law enforcement area.
For more information on the Dordt University Criminal Justice Department, visit Dordt.edu/criminal-justice.
As an institution of higher education committed to the Reformed Christian perspective, Dordt University equips students, faculty, alumni, and the broader community to work toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life. Dordt, located in Sioux Center, Iowa, is a comprehensive university named to the best college lists by U.S. News and World Report, Forbes.com, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review.