Highland Resource Officer Steve Chism arranged the visit by Arkansas State Police Sergeant Mack Thompson. Chism's Introduction to Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement One classes were given an opportunity to ask Thompson questions about job opportunities as well as his career. Thompson, who will retire later this year, has spent his 37 year career with the State Police, where he has worked in patrol, criminal investigation and SWAT.
A few of the students expressed interest in careers with the State Police. Thompson explained that a good education is one of the requirements in becoming employed with the organization. The Sergeant told the students how he, at their age, also became interested in working for the State Police after coming from a police family, and realizing how hard it would be to work for the Secret Service. Thompson became interested in a Secret Service career path while following the events surrounding President John F. Kennedy's assassination. He began looking at other law enforcement opportunities after learning very few ever obtain jobs in the presidential detail. Thompson said the reason many choose law enforcement as a career is for the allure of driving a fast car, arresting bad guys and putting them in jail. Thompson said that is only a very small portion of the duties police officers perform daily.
He stressed the importance of how knowledge of Algebra, Geometry, Speech, Spanish and English are used every day in a law enforcement career. Thompson said that link is an example of how seemingly meaningless classes in school can later apply greatly to every day life after high school. Thompson explained to the classes that English is vitally important for writing reports which are seen by prosecutors and judges . He said Algebra and Geometry are used in accident investigation. "The stuff that you may not think is important now, I promise you, if do decide to do a career in law enforcement, it is going to be very important," Thompson said.
Thompson also discussed high education degrees that are required to work for such organizations such as the FBI, CIA and ICE. The students were amazed that the degrees Thompson said made the biggest impact on law enforcement careers were in accounting and law. He explained that, with an accounting degree, officers are able to track down money in crime investigations without waiting for a CPA to assist then. "The difference in what a trooper did when I started working for the State Police in Sharp County in 1979 and what we do today is light years different," Thompson said. Students shared looks of disbelief when he told students there no computers in use in the State Police in 1976, and went on to explain how the agency now utilizes very high tech equipment both to locate and track criminals, as well as for research and investigations.
Students listened intently as Thompson explained how technology drives everything in law enforcement. He intrigued the students by telling them that, although Navy Seal Team 6 took down Bin Laden, technology driven drones were responsible for the take down of many of the top men in both Al Queida and the Tallaban. Thompson explained it was a young person sitting in a room at an American air base, using pilotless drones to follow and attack terrorist leaders . That got the attention of many video gamers in the room. Thompson said new law enforcement technology, such as the drones, continues to improve and that, while there will always be a use for highly trained Seals, the reason Seals were used to take down Bin Laden, rather than blowing up the compound, was to provide visual proof of his death.
Thompson explained that, while the Patrol Division is the most visible State Police department, there are many other departments with career opportunities including Criminal Investigation, Crimes Against Children, SWAT and others.
Students then asked Thompson questions about his memorable cases, and the dangers he has encountered in his career.
After his talk, many of the students seemed to have new enthusiasm for the school's law enforement classes. The program just began this school year, developed after Chism wrote a grant last year to help defray equipment and costs associated with the program. The $40,000 in grant funds will reimburse the district for any Criminal Justice program expenditures this fall.
Chism, who previously taught similar courses in Independence County, said the classes were a result of a survey if 325 students taken during the 2011-2012 school year. The survey generated a 52 percent positive interest by students.
The course incorporates classroom learning with hands on experience in such areas as finger printing, crime scene processing and report writing. This year , students have also prepared a mock trial. The classes are similar to training at the police academy. Additionally, students will also get to work on electronic dispatch equipment, such as radios and consoles, where Thompson told students he actually began his law enforcement career while still in high school.The classes will also tour correctional facilities or jails, go to a court session and explore other activities in the criminal justice field.
After completing the two classes, students will receive certificates that transfer to institutions of higher education toward a degree in criminal justice. Others may go directly into law enforcement fields, or dispatch jobs after high school.