BY JULIANNE SAAD, Staff Writer
On Oct. 29, University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Criminal Justice department hosted the 11th annual Criminal Justice Exposition. Twenty-three different criminal justice organizations held booths to recruit students and provide information about the field.
Some organizations present were the Michigan Department of Corrections, United States Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Victim Services Unit. Each organization provided students with fliers, pamphlets and representatives to speak with students personally and answer any questions they had. Students from both UM-Dearborn and Henry Ford College were invited.
Donald E. Shelton, Director of Criminal Justice Studies, spoke on why this event was so important for students.
“Our event here today serves three purposes,” Shelton said. “First, we’re here to give our students an opportunity to be exposed to the various job opportunities that exist in law enforcement. Second, it gives the students an opportunity to present practicing themselves, as they will have to do someday. Third, most of the agencies here are actively recruiting, so they are looking for potential employees.”
Shelton has noticed that students’ desires to join law enforcement are often influenced by the variety of action packed crime television shows, like CBS’ Crime Scene Investigation and Law & Order. However, the events portrayed in these hit shows aren’t always accurate.
“I teach a class here in forensic science evidence, and my first job is to disabuse students of CSI,” Shelton said. “Believe it or not, we really don’t get DNA during a commercial. Criminal justice shows are about entertainment, but when you put a show on television, you leave out all of the boring and show all of the terror. A lot of people cannot separate fantasy from reality, and that’s the problem with shows like CSI and Law and Order.”
Gregory J. Osowski, director of the Criminal Justice Program at Henry Ford College, agrees with Shelton.
“I spent 25 years working in Detroit with jobs varying from detective work to homicide, and what we see on TV holds no comparison to what happens in real life,” Osowski said.
Despite their tendency to distort reality, Shelton pointed out a positive effect that these crime shows can have on the current generation of students.
“Young people have watched these programs and they’ve developed an interest in criminal justice that wasn’t there before,” Shelton said.
Shelton is focusing his energy on how to make UM-Dearborn’s criminal justice program even better.
“This is my second year at the university. I came here after 25 years on the bench as a judge, and my goal here is to take our criminal justice program to another level,” Shelton said. “One of the things I do when I come here is I walk around to each of the agencies and ask ‘what are you looking for?’ in terms of attributes, so we can better prepare our students to have those qualities.”
Osowski noted how the department is adapting to better prepare students for careers in law enforcement.
“We never used to look at things like how to prepare students for job interviews, for example, how to talk or how to dress. Now, we’re looking to prepare them from the second they open the door to that job interview, all through the time they decide to retire,” Osowski said.
Tonya Davis, a junior majoring in criminal justice, found the event to be useful.
“I came to look around at the jobs I’m eligible for now, or what jobs I will be eligible for in the future,” Davis said. “My professor actually urged us to come to the event, and I’m thankful because I’ve gotten a lot of information and a lot of pamphlets. There’s stuff that I never thought I would be interested in, that I’m interested in now, so it opened up my eyes a bit. It was really useful because there’s so many careers you can go into within criminal justice and there was so much information provided on each of the different pathways you can go down.”