By: Jamie Leigh Broten
The Criminal Justice Leadership Program (CJLP), a club at Whatcom Community College, is thriving with opportunity for students interested in a career in the criminal justice field.
The club advisor and program coordinator, John Taylor, said that the CJLP takes field trips each quarter that allow students hands-on experience in the field and invites guest speakers to the college which give students an opportunity to network and build connections within the criminal justice system. The CJLP is run by elected student officers as well as Taylor.
Taylor said that the club aims to build a network for students interested in criminal justice careers and connect them with local professionals in the field.
“[The club] has great hands on experience,” said club member Russell Holden, 19, who will be next year’s club chief. “The opportunities attracted me to the club, there are a lot of things you can put on a resume.”
Holden said that he wants to invite a wide variety of guest speakers to talk to club members next year, including a speaker from the Department of Homeland Security.
Taylor said that the CJLP hosts about two guest speakers every month and previous speakers have included a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, a former Secret Service agent, an interrogator from the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, a drug counselor, and even rehabilitated ex-convicts. Taylor said that students are able to hear inside perspectives on the criminal justice system and ask questions to gain insight.
“It’s been very positive for everybody,” said Taylor.
The CJLP also participates in many field trips, such as active shooter training with local law enforcement officers. Taylor said club members pretend to be civilians or criminals and officers practice handling facilitated situations with high-stress circumstances.
“We’ve really created a name for ourselves with most all local law enforcement agencies in their attempt to find role players to assist them,” said Taylor. He also said that students have the opportunity to make connections with local law enforcement during their training, and on June 18, the CJLP will be helping the Washington State Patrol as role players in a shooter scenario.
“Not only is it a great experience for our club, but it’s important and relevant training,” said club member Bryon Powell, 29, who will be next year’s deputy chief of operations. “We try to be a great resource for local agencies in Whatcom County.”
Powell said his plans for the club next year include creating a database of job openings for students in the CJLP looking to enter a career in the criminal justice field.
“I want to form a database of open hire positions and upcoming retirements for various positions in Whatcom County” in the criminal justice field, Powell said. He added that another form of the database he hopes to develop would help students prepare for testing to get a job in one of the three aspects of the criminal justice system: law enforcement, courts, or corrections.
Powell said that next year he would like to bring more resources to the club create a “one –stop shop” for local law enforcement agencies in need of volunteers for training purposes.
Powell said he thinks the CJLP is not only a great opportunity for networking and gaining experience, but also for students to gain insight into the criminal justice system.
“I think people would have a better understanding of the criminal justice system if they just came to the club, it’s an institution that most people aren’t too familiar with,” Powell said. The club is open to anyone interested, and he said he would like more people to take advantage of the opportunities it provides and hopes they can create an awareness of common misconceptions about the criminal justice field.
“[The club is about] public awareness. We want people to be aware of what we do, we want people to be willing to share what they think of what we do, and we just want that door to be open,” said Powell. “There doesn’t need to be an ‘us and them’ mentality when it comes to criminal justice.”
The CJLP meets at 4 p.m. in Kulshan 223 on Wednesdays.