Criminal justice professor helps open doors for students

Professor Warren McLeod has taught at South Puget Sound Community College since 2008. Since then, he has helped students get internships with local criminal justice agencies and has been the CSI club adviser.

Kathryn Herron: You are a professor at both South Puget Sound Community College and Centralia Community College. How long have you been teaching? What made you decide to want to become a professor?

Warren McLeod: I began teaching at the collegiate level in 2006 when I became an adjunct instructor of criminal justice for the College of South Nevada in Las Vegas. I was hired at SPSCC in 2008 and continued to teach online for CSN until this past Fall. I have wanted to be a college professor for many years, and it is one of the reasons I pursued my college degrees. I have also been involved in teaching/instructing since 1983 when I began instructing at the EMS academy my ambulance company ran. I was also very involved in the field training of new EMTs and was an instructor at the local reserve police academy, teaching first aid and CPR. All told, I have been involved in teaching and instructing for 30 years.

KH: What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a professor? What’s the most stressful or frustrating?

WM: The most rewarding aspect comes for me in June when I see my students walk down that line at graduation between the two rows of professors and see the big smiles on their faces. I get hugs and handshakes, but it is the day they have worked so long and hard for. Many tell me at graduation that when they started they had never thought that graduation would be obtainable because it was so far away. The most frustrating is when I have students who do not produce work that I know they are capable of. I often have students who do not turn assignments in on time and just do not put a lot of effort into their studies, and it is not because they can’t do it; they just choose not to.

KH: You’re also the elected coroner of Lewis County. How long have you held that position?

WL: I have been the elected Coroner of Lewis County since January 2011, and my term ends in December 2014. I have been asked if I plan to run for re-election, but I can not answer that right now. Once I announce a plan to seek re-election publically, I have to file paperwork with the state within two weeks. So my answer to that now is I am still considering all of my options.

KH: You’ve mentioned in your classes that you used to work as an EMT in both Boston and Las Vegas. Can you tell us more about that? How did you get started in that career?

WM: I started working ambulance at age 19 in Boston. I thought it would be something I could do until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. 16 years later, I was still at it. I moved to Las Vegas and worked for three years as an EMT in casinos until 1998 when I was hired as a coroner investigator with the Clark County Coroner’s Office in Las Vegas. The county is 8,000 square miles and has a population of 2.5 million. We were a very busy office averaging 35 people a day coming in. I gained a lot of experience in conducting death investigations and handled over 5,500 death investigations during the next 10 years.

KH: You’re also the adviser for the CSI club and encourage students to sign up for internships with local law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. Have you always been interested in the criminal justice system? Do you get excited when your students show an interest or start getting involved?

WM: Working as an EMT and being involved in criminal cases meant testifying in court. That had always fascinated me. As an investigator with the coroner’s office, I was in court and dealt with crime scenes and cases all the time. I have been in the criminal justice system for a long time. I was also a reserve police officer back in Massachusetts for 11 years and found the work and the entire system exciting. I love when students come to me about an internship because it means they will be able to get directly involved in a criminal justice agency, and when they go to apply for a law enforcement job, the prospective employer will be very happy to see an internship on their resume. The feedback I have received from every student who has done an internship is pure excitement and happiness.

KH: What advice would you give to students who are interested in joining the criminal justice field or related careers?

WM: Look at all of your options. There are many criminal justice agencies out there, and each will have its own set of requirements. For example, all federal law enforcement agencies require a bachelor’s degree at the minimum. To work in forensics, there are very discipline-specific requirements for each field. Do a lot of investigating to see what is required. Talk with professionals from the field you are interested in. Contact the local police/sheriff about doing ride alongs. Most agencies are willing to have you do this.

KH: You and student members of the CSI club are heading to the AAFS conference in February. What can you tell us about that? What part of the trip are you most looking forward to.

WM: The CSI Club travels to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) every year. This is where over 800 forensic experts from around the world come to put on a week of conferences and workshops. There are also over 2,000 attendees representing forensic science disciplines, students, practitioners, and educators. This is an excellent opportunity for students to talk with and learn from many different types of folks directly involved in forensic science.

My favorite part of the trip is when the students get together at the end of each day, and they share what specific conference they went to and what they learned. They are so excited and energized that it makes the whole trip worth it for me.