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Students, community, officers benefit from new degree

By Greg Gelpi

A new degree program at Clayton College & State University could help beef up local law enforcement.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice degree for the university, an addition that helps more than the students.

Morrow Police Chief Kenny Smith teaches an introduction to criminal justice class, a class that will be part of the degree program next year.

"Just to have an institution that close to us on the south side of Atlanta that has a criminal justice degree works wonders for us," Smith said. "We'll be able to use it as a recruiting tool."

He said that police officers aren't required to have a degree in criminal justice, but such a degree would benefit many members of law enforcement.

"It's important for people in the crime lab for example to have a broad spectrum of the system," Smith said.

About 100 to 150 students are expected to enroll in the new degree program, according to John Shiffert, the director of university relations. The program will help the university fulfill its mission statement to bring "educational opportunities to the citizens and businesses of the Southern Crescent to contribute to the region's future development."

Calls about the new degree are already rolling in before the program even rolls out, Kevin Demmitt, who will serve as the Criminal Justice program coordinator, said.

"There is a lot of excitement about this criminal justice program from current students and the community," Demmitt said. "I receive phone calls daily from prospective students who are anxious to pursue this course of study."

The university surveyed students about five years ago and found that criminal justice was one of the top degrees requested by students, he said. The degree provides a foundation for those wanting to begin a career in law enforcement and a chance for career advancement to those already in law enforcement.

As part of the Criminal Justice degree, students will be able to specialize in computer forensics, white collar crimes and, of particular concern with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, security concerns.

"With our proximity to Hartsfield, we would like to provide classes on domestic security," Demmitt said.

Until now, the closest criminal justice programs were at Georgia State University and West Georgia State University, Demmitt said.

"With the addition of this undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice at CCSU, we now open the academic doors to a huge pool of prospective students who otherwise would have had to travel great distances to get credentialed in this field," Ray Wallace, Clayton State's dean of Arts and Sciences, said.

The new major will begin being offered in the fall.