by Merrick Parnell
Students wandered along a muddy trail near the Canadian-American border, stopping to observe two sets of foot prints. Examining them closely they came to the conclusion that two men had stopped and exchanged some words or contraband. This wasn’t a normal hiking trail; it is a trail used by drug smugglers to run substances over the border and was shown to them on a recent criminal justice leadership club field trip.
The criminal justice leadership club at Whatcom Community College is preparing “crime fighters of tomorrow” by providing an insight into many fields of law enforcement.
We are one of the more active clubs on campus,” said JT Taylor the club’s advisor. The club which meets every other Wednesday has 20 to 30 members that hope to one day join the police, sheriff, border patrol or even the FBI.
“You get to learn what its all about,” said club president Gareth Moore. “The club really tries to cater to each member’s individual interests,” he added.
The club provides hands-on activities to both educate and prepare its members for a career in law enforcement. Recently the clubs got the opportunity to get an inside look at the border patrol. Twenty students were exposed to the border’s video patrol rooms and active smuggling trails.
“While we were there they really rolled out the red carpet for us, involving several officers in showing is how their operations work,” Taylor said.
The students were able to tour facilities. They got to see all the vehicles that the border patrol used such as, trucks, ATVs and snowmobiles. “ Just to see all the technology was amazing,” said club member Jaden Galenze.
Club members also recently visited Tacoma Tactical. Using replica tactile weapons, they participated in a room clearing raid, and an armed barricaded suspect situation. They got to experience what a S.W.A.T officer might encounter while on call.
Upcoming field trips include the Bellingham Coast Guard Station and the Monroe Prison.
Besides the hands-on experiences, the club also features many law enforcement guest speakers such as the Bellingham police deputy, Whatcom County jail warden Wendy Jones and even an F.B.I agent. Recently, David Richards, the patrol sergeant for the Bellingham Police Department, spoke to the club on what it takes to be a police officer.
“If you go into this job it requires passion,” said Richards who has served on the force for 31 years. He added that when you are not happy with going to work that you should quit. Richards has worked on every unit in the department except for the undercover drug unit. With his wealth of experiences he was able to talk about life in each of the units, giving the students a better understanding of police life.
“If you don’t learn anything new, you’re not challenging yourself,” Richards said.
The Club has produced some alumni who have gone out into the field. Peter Tran, the clubs former president, became a cadet with the Whatcom County Sheriffs Department. Another club member got an exclusive invite to Bellingham’s police dog training session.
“Our club really gives students an opportunity for students an opportunity for students who share a common interest to interact,” said Taylor.
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