Northwestern College Criminal Justice Students Tour Oak Lawn Police Department & Firing Range
Northwestern College’s Criminal Justice students continue to benefit from a partnership with the Oak Lawn Police Department, with this fall’s Criminal Investigations Class having the opportunity for a second time to learn firsthand from law enforcement personnel. During week 6 of the fall quarter the class had the opportunity to take a field trip to the Oak Lawn Police Department where they toured the facility; observed the various areas of intake, holding and questioning; observed the practice of fingerprinting; viewed via live recording the questioning of a subject; toured and utilized the department’s firing range; and met with multiple Oak Lawn Police personnel, including Investigator Robert Tomiczak and Range Master/Officer David Sroka. The students were also accompanied by Northwestern College instructor Charles Chigas (retired Oak Lawn Chief) and Criminal Justice Program Coordinator Mark Mitchell (retired Palos Hills Lieutenant).
Northwestern College’s partnership with the Oak Lawn Police Department and its Criminal Justice Department was initiated by Criminal Justice Instructor Charles Chigas, a 35 year law enforcement veteran of the Oak Lawn Police Department, and for 10 years, its Chief of Police. The partnership was designed in hopes of better engaging the College’s Criminal Justice students by teaching them the real workings of the course subject matter – in this particular case, Criminal Investigations – through the eyes of veteran detectives and investigators who have applied it in the field and are able to share those experiences (both good and bad) with students. The partnership was further designed so that as the course progresses, along with the students’ proficiency of the subject matter, the level of the detectives’ presentations would intensify accordingly.
This month’s field trip to the Oak Lawn Police Department was planned so as to provide the students with a first-hand view of the workings of a police department, its day-to-day operations, the actual processes employed as they unfold, and the role and duties that investigators there engage in.
For just shy of two hours, the Northwestern College Criminal Justice students were able to tour the Oak Lawn Police Department with Investigator Tomiczak as their guide. Investigator Tomiczak explained the functions of each area of the Department as he walked them through, giving them the opportunity to better understand the actual processing of a prisoner from intake through questioning, all the way through to holding. While there, a prisoner was being questioned and the students were able to listen in live via camera, as questioning/interrogation of suspects is required by law to be monitored and recorded. Officer Tomiczak also outlined the process of gathering and following up on leads to the students, as well as identifying what goes into the decision to rule a lead out.
In sum, the students had an exciting afternoon after getting a glimpse of the profession they are working towards, and walked away with a better understanding of criminal justice processes and procedures that they were reading about and learning in the classroom. The Oak Lawn Police Department benefitted by sharing their know-how and skills with eager and excited students who are working towards law enforcement careers. A win-win situation for all.
The partnership with the Oak Lawn Police Department and Northwestern College has been a positive experience, with many Northwestern College students having the opportunity to benefit from the actual experiences of law enforcement officials. Of additional note, instructors for all of Northwestern College’s Criminal Justice Program courses are active or retired law enforcement officers that bring their own real-life experiences into the classroom. Chigas first introduced to the partnership the concept of multi-presentation initiatives by course during the Summer of 2014 when he initiated three presentations by juvenile justice officers into the Juvenile Justice course curriculum. The concept was well received and continues with this Criminal Investigations course, which also has three presentations incorporated. The first such presentation was conducted during week 2 of the fall quarter when Detective Daniel Matuszak, a fifteen (15) year veteran of the Oak Lawn Police Department, visited the Criminal Investigations Class. Detective Matuszak provided students with an overview of his role as a detective, outlined specific skills utilized regularly during the course of his job, and also shared summaries of various ongoing investigations that were in the news.