With the criminal justice department teaching students material in various classes, students also have the opportunity to serve their community through internships or jobs.
Jesse Henrichs, senior criminal justice major, balances being a student with a part-time job as an Elk Point police officer. Henrichs also worked at Union County jail as a correctional officer and the Department of Natural Resources as a seasonal law enforcement officer in the past.
Last month, Officer Brian Gerard Garrett from Kyle, SD was shot and killed at the Pine Ridge Reservation during a domestic dispute. With the passing of Officer Garrett, Henrichs said he has to be ready for various scenarios, however, he can’t be prepared for them all.
“It kind of weighs heavy because every time you walk up to a car, walk up to a house, you have to have it in the back of your mind ‘Hey I might get shot at right here’ or ‘Someone might try and kill me right here,” Henrichs said. “You always have to have that in your mind that this might be the one.”
Henrichs said his position as a correctional officer at the Union County Jail in his sophomore year required him to watch over numerous inmates.
“You deal with a lot of unruly inmates and you’re watching over a lot of people who don’t like you. It’s a good job and I had a lot of great coworkers,” Henrichs said. “I think my calling was on the road. I would rather bring (people) in (jail) rather than watch them.”
Henrichs said he hopes to work at the federal level in the future, and he said the most important part of his job is helping people.
“You know you’re there to help people. It’s not all about taking people to jail like everyone thinks. You’re there to protect the community and it feels great to know you’re doing the right thing,” Henrichs said. “I have learned so much in the last five months more than I ever could have imagined in five years.”
Henrichs knew he wanted to study criminal justice since his father was a guard at the South Dakota State Penitentiary. He said the reason he chose Elk Point is because it’s “close to home.”
With being enrolled in a criminal procedure class at USD right now, Henrichs said what he learned in class can be applied in the real world.
“There’s been numerous times where you could refer back to laws that you’ve learned in class so you’re not violating someone’s amendment rights when you’re making arrests or making a search,” he said. “So it really helps out that I have this experience that’s so fresh in my mind when I’m at work.”
Henrichs said police stations tend to hire people with experience, and a two month long field training as well as a shooting test are all required to become an officer.
“As far as being a student, I feel like I have a jump start on my career,” Henrichs said. “These practices are so fresh in my mind that I can actually use them and be proficient at them. Instead of having to learn a lot of this stuff at a later age, I can learn it right now.”
Henrichs said he plans to attend the law enforcement academy shortly after graduation and continue working at the Elk Point station.
Jef Rice, University Police Department (UPD) lieutenant, got his start in law enforcement in 1981 working for the Rapid City Police Department, the Pennington County sheriff and now, he’s been at UPD for seven years.
Rice said there are numerous positions offered at UPD if students are interested, mostly as student event workers who work alongside officers at games or activities. He said students who work for UPD can learn numerous skills and policies in different positions.
“(Students) can learn parking rules and regulations… crowd control, how to talk to people,” Rice said. “As they move into the security and certified officer positions, they get the training that would be commensurate to what that position would be.”
Rice said some advice he would give students would be to “be as flexible as you can when you are learning what you’re doing.”
“Make sure that you understand what you may learn in a classroom is extremely important, but how you transfer that in the field is where you will be tested the most,” he said.
Sandy McKeown, director of the criminal justice department, assists students with academic advising, internships, study abroad opportunities and undergraduate research.
McKeown said one important aspect of students having opportunities in the criminal justice field is to get them out of their comfort zone.
“I think anything that gets (students) out of their comfort zone is really important because if you’re going to be a professional in the criminal justice field, you’re always going to be uncomfortable and learning how to carry yourself in those situations is very important,” McKeown said.
McKeown said USD graduates populate many of the job spaces in South Dakota’s criminal justice system.
“We have students who have gone into state, federal and local level policing. We have students working as attorneys and judges now. Lots of people working in corrections,” McKeown said. “If you look around the courts, policing and corrections around South Dakota, you will find USD graduates all over the place.”
McKeown said criminal justice is a diverse field to get into.
“There are so many opportunities available from counseling troubled kids and preparing them to go back home after they have gotten in trouble or have been removed from their home for another reason to standing in front of state supreme court arguing cases and everything in between,” McKeown said. “Our students are doing just that.”