Experience is education for WilmU’s Criminal Justice Institute. There’s no substitute for experience.
When Dr. Raymond Carr and Scott Duffey, the assistant professors who direct Wilmington University’s Criminal Justice Institute, lead a continuing education program for law enforcement professionals, their combined 64 years in the field add the weight of authority.
Their True Crime Lecture Series has packed the ballroom of a Concord Pike hotel by inviting the investigators, profilers, and undercover agents behind headline-making cases to reflect on their careers.
They’ve shared statistics and strategies for responding to an active shooter incident with the faculty and staff of a local school district in order to prepare them to protect their students.
“Ray and I love face-to-face instruction. We love audience engagement,” says Duffey. “It adds to the grasp of whatever you’re learning. It’s hands-on in our classrooms and when we’re learning about the needs of those we train.”
The past year’s circumstances have, of course, tapped the brakes on bringing experience into most rooms, but they haven’t slowed the educational efforts of the two former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents.
“COVID has changed the way we do things,” Duffey says. “It is different, there’s no doubt. Ray and I have been learning the realities of doing everything virtually and facing the challenge of, how do you continue to engage your audience, how do you keep training relevant, when you’re behind the screen?”
It’s a good question, and it requires a whole new skill set, as many educators have learned over the past year. “I personally feed off the classroom environment,” says Duffey. “We have a lot of Q&A. Six to eight hours just disappear, and then people stay behind to ask me for more information. If we condense the content into a 60-to- 90-minute presentation, can it offer the same punch?”
They’re finding out, most notably in the new training courses they’ve introduced in the second block of this spring semester. One course focuses on responding to animal control and animal cruelty issues. “That’s a subject that’s a lot different from what the average police officer is trained to handle,” says Dr. Carr. “We heard people in law enforcement saying, we don’t really have anyone who can do that. Here in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, police usually partner with the local SPCA, so we’re looking to provide the responders getting into it with the rules, regulations, ethics, and professional standards.”
The other course, designed for the WilmU community and members of the public, covers cyber security and protecting the privacy of one’s personal information against intrusion. “The role-playing we use in training doesn’t work the same when it’s seen online,” says Dr. Carr, but cyber security is compatible with videoconferencing. “You can engage people with audiovisuals.”
Online instruction also offers the possibilities of increased reach and a wider audience. Since last summer, the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) has been producing a monthly webinar series called “To Catch a Criminal” in partnership with the Philadelphia-based Vidocq Society. The society, whose members include homicide investigators, forensic scientists, psychologists, prosecutors, coroners, and others, has been meeting since 1990 to review cold cases for new insights. “Our webinars for the Vidocq Society have gone nationwide,” says Dr. Carr. “They’ve been viewed by some of the greatest criminal justice minds in the country.” (Dr. Carr was inducted recently into the Vidocq Society and is now one of just 82 full members in the world.)
Dr. Carr’s contribution in November to the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ Human Trafficking Awareness Webinar series likewise drew distant participation. His discussion of the links between trafficking and pornography counted virtual attendees from Europe and Japan.
“Our influence is growing,” he says. “The pandemic has caused us to take a look through a different lens, and we’ve expanded what we’ve been able to do.”
Don’t expect an international presence anytime soon, though. Since its founding three years ago, the CJI has focused on the local, offering customized professional development and training courses on a range of topics to law enforcement agencies in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
“Scott and I always want to make sure that our primary audience of local law enforcement professionals have access to the resources they need, so we’re not in a hurry to expand,” says Dr. Carr. “That’s really our mission, making law enforcement better. And law enforcement, they’re not shy, they’ll tell you what they need.”
State of the Profession
In the wake of a 2017 hostage crisis at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, the Delaware Department of Corrections hired the CJI to provide the facility’s employees with specialized training as part of its efforts to reform conditions at the prison.
The CJI continued its relationship with the Department of Corrections last year, signing a three-year contract to deliver a short course of professional education to each of the department’s 2,100 employees. The eight-week blocks of live videoconferenced sessions cover leadership and ethics for senior staff and de-escalation, conflict resolution, and communication for cadets.
Working with the Delaware State Police, Dr. Carr and Duffey have also developed the Constable Academy, an online in-service course for the more than 300 officers who carry out civil service duties for the state’s Justice of the Peace Court, including serving summons and subpoenas and conducting evictions.
These educational initiatives are an area of increasing importance, particularly considering the politics and pressures involved in many discussions of law enforcement.
“We’ve been in touch with our law enforcement partners to learn how they’ve been impacted,” says Duffey. “The past year has exposed a lot of things that weren’t previously in view. We’re seeing things change rapidly, for better and worse. And the problems aren’t just outside of the occupation, but also inside.”
Continuing education isn’t unwarranted, he says, given that much of a first responder’s training occurs on the job, as they approach and manage each individual situation.
“We can be the bridge to bring over the resources they need,” says Duffey. “We’re not just providing a slogan, but also solutions.”
For the CJI, the learning runs both ways, and this is essential for two instructors who’ve retired from the front line. “No matter who we’re training, we always walk away with something new that we’ve learned,” says Dr. Carr. “Then we make our training session better the next time we’re teaching it. It’s a constant evolution.”
Adds Duffey, “I never want to be a dinosaur, teaching stuff that’s out of date.”
Next Available Opportunities
For teaching and learning, there’s no substitute for firsthand experience, and Dr. Carr and Duffey are eagerly anticipating bringing it once again.
While the CJI’s first annual Violent Crime Symposium — which was scheduled to bring law enforcement officers from across the country to Wilmington in April of 2020 for three days of professional development and discussions of current issues — was postponed indefinitely among last spring’s COVID-19 precautions, they’re still looking forward to making it a reality.
They’ve also been in contact with the speakers who’d been on deck for the monthly True Crime Lecture Series, including a retired FBI hostage negotiator, an agent who’d infiltrated an organized crime family, and a Unabomber case investigator, and are waiting for the day they can welcome them to Wilmington.
“Our audience has been growing,” says Dr. Carr. “We’re ready to roll, once we get the all-clear.”
For more information about Wilmington University’s Criminal Justice Institute, please visit their website at wilmu.edu/cji.