Changes for the Criminal Justice Department

By Amelia Mack

In the last few years there has been a national spotlight placed on the police in this country. One of Youngstown State University’s strongest and largest departments is the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services’ department of criminal justice and forensic sciences.

Edward Villone has been YSU’s Police Academy Commander since 2013. Villone said the criminal justice department continues to see high enrollment and good perspective from students.

“[The Police Academy students] want to be the police and want to do something good. People come into this for the right reason,” he said. “It is a lot of work, time and effort and stress on yourself and your family to be involved in law enforcement to begin with, so I think they come into it today for the right reason.”

The issues police are facing are always evolving, and the curriculum used in the criminal justice department and police academy has been updated to reflect these changes.

“The evolving changes are the issues with terrorism, new technologies, DNA evidence, electronic evidence and cybercrimes,” Villone said. “Things that are dynamic in nature have completely revamped the curriculums for the state and for the students, so they stay abreast to what’s going on.”

Villone noted that the curriculum is designed for them to interject and add information on these evolving topics. The day after the Ohio State University attacks in November, YSU’s police academy was able to discuss it and focus in on issues of terrorism.

Several of the students in the police academy said they had mixed feelings on how prepared they feel going into the workforce after graduation.

Nathan Fabian, a police academy student, said while a classroom education is important, it can only do so much when it comes to a cop’s overall education.

“We’ve taken in a lot of knowledge, but there’s absolutely no way to fully prepare for [this job] … You don’t learn police work in a classroom,” Fabian said. “You learn it through experience.”

Fabian said that as a student he never second guessed his decision to choose policing.

“I personally felt like as things got progressively worse that was more so a call to duty for me,” he said.

David Ritz, another student in the police academy, said the people speaking to them at the academy are proof that they will be as prepared as they can be going into the job.

“We’ve had so many instructors who are phenomenal police officers, and they had far fewer hours in a police academy than we do,” Ritz said. “They’re still capable of doing their job at an extremely high level, so that just shows you that a lot of it is going to be learning while you’re on the job. That’s why you have those senior guys to actually speak into you and show you what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Christian Onwudiwe is a professor in the criminal justice department. He said the curriculum has been infused with the dynamics of cultural diversity.

“Before, cultural diversity was not an issue in policing, but today it is,” Onwudiwe said. “As a police officer, you are breaking within a multiethnic, multiracial society.”

Onwudiwe said the opportunity to help make students great future police officers motivates him in teaching.

“I’m excited to teach it. It’s a good and noble career. A few bad officers have made the profession look bad. They should serve everyone equally and not abuse their power,” he said. “Police can’t solve the problem of crime if they don’t have the support of the public. We need each other.”