Criminal Justice Studies Strengthening Communities One Leader at a Time

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With our news media inundated with reports of alleged police misconduct triggering protest movements, political figures and the public alike have found themselves questioning what measures need to be taken to alleviate such tensions and what lasting changes need to occur if community relations with law enforcement are to be improved. For George Ducworth, the answers to such questions all point to one necessity: strengthened leadership.

Ducworth, Coordinator of Recruitment and Career Development in the School of Public Service and Administration at Anderson University, is well-versed in the proceedings of both law enforcement and politics: he completed a 20-year tenure as 10th Circuit Solicitor in South Carolina and served as an aide to U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond. He places great importance on the principles of honesty and ethical behavior and takes pride in helping to mold emerging leaders in the criminal justice field. He has helped to shape a program of study, patterned to some degree after The Georgia Command College at Columbus State University to instill the values that Anderson University sees as essential to working effectively. When asked about the greatest issues facing law enforcement officers, it is the need for stable leadership that Ducworth stresses most vehemently. “The best way to improve criminal justice agencies is through the leadership,” he says. “It’s extremely helpful for law enforcement [officers] to have leadership training.”

Most of the discussions surrounding recent allegations of poor judgment and racial profiling across the United States have focused particularly on the relationship between law enforcement officials and residents of the African-American community. While this is certainly an issue fraught with conflicting options and considerable historical precedent, Ducworth again emphasizes the necessity for strong leadership, as well as the enactment of a proactive community-based approach. “It is very important for [law enforcement] leadership to get involved in their local communities,” he says. “That is one thing that agencies in South Carolina have handled very well.” He goes on to explain that while this approach requires planning and hard work, the results are well worth the effort. Referring to the 2015 racially-motivated shooting at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Ducworth expresses that tensions were likely minimized due to the swift, pro-active approach used by local law enforcement. “[They] had a good relationship with the community before the situation developed,” he claims.

The curriculum is designed to provide management professionals within law enforcement with intensive exposure to organizational theory, leadership skills, policy development and liability issues. Graduates of the program are expected to apply these research-based practices toward the complex challenges facing their respective agencies, helping to fulfill a statewide need for skilled criminal justice executives. “Not very many states have Command Colleges,” says Ducworth. “I think it is something that you’ll be seeing more and more of as criminal justice agencies see the value of these programs in developing leaders.” Students in Anderson University’s Master of Criminal Justice program in its Command College are given the opportunity to cultivate and manage an ethically-sound department, with several courses integrating case studies to address response to racial tensions, in a country growing in diversity across colors and cultures.

Another invaluable feature of the Command College program is the integration of guest lecturers, many of whom have been involved in high-profile cases. “Networking is very important because it provides opportunities to learn from the experience of others with similar situations,” stresses Ducworth. In previous years, the Command College of South Carolina has hosted law enforcement professionals from recent racially-charged cases in Florida and Missouri and has also had students engage in mock drills and press conferences. Students in the Master of Criminal Justice program are also trained in what Ducworth terms “media survival,” helping them to understand the media’s role in shaping public perception of particular cases and law enforcement agencies as a whole.

Beginning in January of 2017, Anderson University will begin teaching a cohort of students in their Master of Criminal Justice program at the Lowcountry Graduate Center in North Charleston. Individuals within criminal justice agencies who are seen as having the potential to develop into the kind of strong leader that Ducworth describes, may be referred to the program by their superiors. This presents an excellent opportunity for local agencies, who want to increase efficacy, and help their officers to succeed. “Many department heads want to develop leaders within their departments,” says Ducworth.

In addition to a written nomination from a supervisor, individuals with a minimum of five years’ experience working in a criminal justice related field should provide a resume and goals statement detailing one’s professional aspirations. A Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score is not required for admission. The program is offered in a hybrid format that enables students to take online coursework as well as spend two full days each month meeting in person at the Lowcountry Graduate Center.

For additional information about this opportunity, visit our program page for Anderson University’s Master of Criminal Justice or call 843.953.4723.