Law Classes do Whatcom Justice

by Cutter Kilgore

Horizon Reporter

Student Brandon Sherfey comes from a long line of police officers, judges, and various other law enforcement agents.

“It’s a family business,” he said with a chuckle in a quiet hallway outside the door to his class, titled Laws of Arrest; Search and Seizure, part of Whatcom Community College’s Criminal Justice program.

            The course is taught at Whatcom by first-year instructor Evan Jones, described by Sherfey as a young prosecuting attorney.  

            “He’s very informative, more of a practical teacher,” said Odette Sires, a student of the class and the program director for the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Island County. She said Jones talks about his own experiences with law during the class sessions.

Jones’ instruction delves into the practicalities of conducting a search of persons, cars and houses. He hosts discussions on recent case law affecting search and seizure. The class is for students like Sherfey, who intends to makes his career as a border patrolman.

            “I mean, it’s a lot of bookwork and lecture, what you can and can’t do when you pull people over,” Sherfey said. He said Jones is “pretty cool,” but sometimes tense and inexperienced.

            “I absolutely love it,” said Sires. “I currently work with family law, and I wanted to see what it’s like on the other side. It’s one thing to know something and another to see it applied.”

            And then there’s Alan Forsberg, who wants to be a police officer; he diligently asks questions and takes notes during instructor Mark Lann’s criminal law course, another in Whatcom’s Criminal Justice program.

            “It’s a good start to just learn right from wrong,” he said. “The teacher’s a cop. People have questions. You kind of get the feeling for it,” he said.

            On a quiet Wednesday evening, while Lann is away, guest speaker Deputy Lonnie Bauman addresses the students in Lann’s criminal law class. Bauman is a hostage negotiator in Whatcom County and a former military police officer in the Marine Corps. “I’ve done a little of everything,” he said.

            Bauman has a strong jaw and spiky, gelled hair. He wears an earth-toned sweater and gestures widely with his hands as he answers questions from the classroom congregation. He draws from 17 years of real-world law enforcement experience.

            “Is it illegal to follow a cop?” a student asks, curious about traffic laws. During the session, students toss scenarios at the officer, who answers candidly and with sincerity.

            “Is it legal?” said Bauman. “I don’t care. I’m going to pull you over and ask why you are following me. It’s weird.”

            Students flip through the pages of the RCW – Revised Code of Washington, a massive tome filled with statutes and laws and technicalities. But the students in the class get the benefit of practical instruction from those who have been there. Street smarts.

            “What we’re trying to do is protect the world from bad guys,” said Bauman. “We arrest the guys that need to be arrested, and legislators are tying our hands.”

            “They don’t want it to become a police state?” a student asks.

            “Yes,” said Bauman. “Exactly.”

            Whatcom offers students a complete degree in criminal justice. A degree suited for anyone with a desire for a career in law enforcement.

            “If you’re at all interested, take it,” said Forsberg about the criminal law class. “Just hop in and take a seat.”

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