Tyler Junior College’s Criminal Justice Department has added a new hands-on transfer degree to the existing program.

The degree is entitled Law Enforcement Investigations.

“The biggest benefit it’s going to give a student coming out of college is, they will have the basic skills they need to work in a crime scene,” Jason Waller, the criminal justice department chair, said.

Waller spent 14 years as a homicide detective and 25 years as a police officer.

The department had only a traditional transfer degree prior to this addition.

There was a growing need for an investigation focused degree plan.

“We started seeing a slow building interest in being detectives,” Waller said.

Popular Television shows like “CSI,” and “Law and Order” have increased the number of students who want to go into criminal justice and investigations. Waller said it’s not like it is on TV.

One of the deceptive factors in the popular television shows is the seeming immediate accessibility into the investigations departments.

“You have to become a police officer, and work your way through the department,” Waller said.

The shows often also mix two occupations.

“We have to figure out if they want to work in a crime lab or be a police officer,” Waller said.

The new classes featured in the degree plan will include a large amount of hands on learning. Students will learn how to document a crime scene, and how to collect information.

They will also learn how to collect physical evidence from fingerprints, and basic blood spatter analysis.

“We have got a lot of background and skills that we want to give to the students,” Waller said.

It is important that criminal justice students acquire an associate’s degree because some police departments require that you have at least 60 hours of college credit.

The department also hopes the program might draw in active police officers as well as incoming students.

“We are hoping that it will bring some officers who are interested in investigations to come back to college,” Waller said.

Waller views this degree addition as just baby steps towards bigger steps in the department.

Jenifer Walker is a criminal justice student that plans to do the new investigations degree plan this fall.

“I’m trying to be a homicide detective, but start off as a police officer,” Walker said.

The investigations degree fits her needs well.

“The new degree plan is good because it is less hours, and Mr. Waller says it still falls into the category of what I’m trying to be,” Walker said.

Walker plans on furthering her criminal justice education after graduating with the new degree plan.

“I plan on graduating with the new one and coming back to finish the other one,” Walker said.

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