December 4, 2015

Fighting Crime: Why You Don’t Need a Cape

Superheroes have become so popular lately that some individuals have decided to bring them into the real world by roaming the streets in costume to fight crime. This month in Seattle, a masked man calling himself Phoenix Jones was arrested after pepper spraying a group of club goers in order to allegedly break up a fight. While the idea of living out a childhood fantasy appeals to many people, this kind of vigilante behavior is frowned upon by police departments because these individuals lack training and endanger both themselves and those they try to help. Due to the masks they wear, these “superheroes” have been mistaken in the past for robbers, and some have nearly been shot as a result.

While the lives of those who graduate from criminal justice programs may not be as glamorous as the larger-than-life heroes of the silver screen, they are part of a complex system that fights crime on many different levels. Both the state and federal branches of the public sector need qualified candidates. New Criminal Justice graduates wanting to become police officers, for instance, must obtain certification through a training school that tests procedural knowledge and physical fitness levels required for the job’s strenuous work.

New officers, especially those working in large cities, are given specific duties such as robbery investigation and answering domestic disturbance calls. This kind of organization is necessary to ensure that the public’s needs are met safely and efficiently. Unlike Phoenix Jones, patrolling officers work with a partner in case one of them becomes incapacitated and unable to call for backup. Lastly, the police have been trained to use the least amount of force possible because they are held accountable if a suspect sustains serious injury due to improper police procedure. Vigilantes have no such accountability and could very easily cause someone’s death due to their lack of training.

More experienced officers may want to move further in their careers by choosing to work for the federal government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, for example, frequently seeks potential agents with a background in law enforcement, and requires that candidates possess a four-year degree and pass an extensive background check. Those who have been selected must then enter an intense training program at the FBI Academy where they receive training based upon their assigned areas of expertise. Other government branches such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also hire graduates from criminal justice programs to enforce regulations. Costumed “superheroes” receive none of these amazing career opportunities.

Lastly, private security firms and detective agencies offer less dangerous positions to those with a criminal justice degree. Advanced Surveillance Group, Inc., a licensed firm that offers a variety of investigational services, prefers candidates with a background in criminal justice due to their knowledge of crime-solving procedures. Private firms such as this one are hired by individuals, companies and attorneys to solve cases of insurance fraud, track down negligent child support payers, and confirm suspicions of infidelity, as well as other kinds of surveillance work. While masked vigilantes like to view themselves as detectives, they lack the resources of a professional firm to solve these kinds of problems.

These examples represent only a small number of the opportunities available to those with a criminal justice degree, as graduates with an interest in science can branch out into more specialized fields such as Forensics. Those who want a little glamour can even work as a celebrity bodyguard. Best of all, no capes are required.

Brandi Tolleson received her master’s degree in English from Cal State Long Beach in 2007.

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