Behind the badge

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Tidewater_behind_the_badgeCriminal justice combines law enforcement, corrections and forensic science

The criminal justice field needs disciplined individuals to work as police officers, legal experts and corrections professionals. Careers with good pay and job security await those with strong critical thinking skills and respect for the law.

“Job opportunities are out there, but they are competitive, and agencies are selective about who they hire,” said Joe Fairchild, who leads the Criminal Justice program on Tidewater Community College’s Virginia Beach Campus and is dean of Social Sciences and Public Services there.


Bill Pearsall, lead faculty member for Criminal Justice on the Chesapeake Campus, works with students during a scenario.

Motivation and personal integrity are key. “The public’s expectations are high, and we must train our students to exceed those expectations,” added Bill Pearsall, lead faculty member at the Chesapeake Campus. “Law enforcement officers will ultimately have authority and they must be educated, balanced individuals.”

“They also need to be ‘people people,’” said Don Haley, lead faculty member at the Virginia Beach Campus. “Through all we do, we must never lose our human side and remember that we are here to protect and serve.”

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A range of skills and opportunities

TCC_criminal_justice_salariesCriminal justice encompasses law enforcement, the courts, corrections, probation, parole, investigations, government and private security and a host of related occupations.

“Students should be prepared to use reading and writing skills, and work to be the best they can be as writers,” said Antonio Passaro, the lead faculty member at the Norfolk Campus. “Many positions in law enforcement also have physical fitness standards and background checks.”

TCC’s 61-credit Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice has courses such as Criminology; Criminal Law, Evidence and Procedures; Law Enforcement Organization and Administration; Introduction to Corrections; and the Juvenile Justice System. Students also complete a supervised study that includes an 80-hour internship with local police departments or court systems.


Diamon Stephens practices fingerprinting with Don Haley, lead faculty member for Criminal Justice on the Virginia Beach Campus.

New for fall 2016, degrees and certificates with specializations in forensic science, homeland security, law enforcement and public law will be offered, with cutting-edge classes for these in-demand career fields.

The program combines the classroom with hands-on learning like a firearms simulator, mock crime scenes and forensic labs at the Virginia Beach Campus – and soon  at the Chesapeake Campus.

When you take classes at TCC, you learn from those who have been there, done that. The criminal justice faculty includes a judge, computer forensics expert FBI agent, attorney, police detective and state trooper.

8% Projected increase in protective services jobs from 2012-2022
Source: U.S. Department of Labor

As seen on TV?


Rick James, lead faculty member, Portsmouth Campus

“We can thank Hollywood for generating a lot of interest and awareness about career opportunities that people may not have known even existed before,” said Rick James, lead faculty member at TCC’s Portsmouth Campus. “But the downside is that it creates some misconceptions.”

If you graduate with a two-year degree, you should have a basic idea of what criminal and civil law entails. “I’d like to see every student take a few of these courses,” James added. “We’re ensuring that they are educated on both the Constitution and the criminal justice system.”


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