Criminal Justice Students Receive Real-Life Work Experience as Interns

November 15, 2017 -- Christine Schrantz is in her final term at CNM in the Criminal Justice Program, but she is already receiving real-life work experience with the Albuquerque Police Department.
November 15, 2017

She is working there as an unpaid intern 12 hours a week where she reviews felony crimes, auto burglaries and domestic violence reports to recommend which have enough evidence to pursue further investigation. Evidence may include fingerprints and witness statements.

“When I first started in the Criminal Justice Program, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Schrantz said. “All the coursework and this internship, in particular, made me realize I wanted to work in the criminal justice system.”

She is one of two students doing internships this term, gaining actual experience in their fields of study. The other student, Jessica Sullivan, works with CNM Security. Over the past 15 years, the program has placed about 100 students in internships at APD, Bernalillo County Metro Probation, Valencia County Sherriff’s Department, Rio Rancho Police Department, CNM Security, Diersen Charities in Albuquerque (a halfway house for people exiting the federal prison system) and more, said Kevin Daugherty, director of CNM’s Criminal Justice Program.

Students can’t enroll in the internship program until the end of their studies at CNM, just before they graduate and are starting to seriously job hunt. It is an upper division elective that gives students the opportunity to work in a real-world environment. They must get department approval before they can register for the internship.

Some Criminal Justice students go on to a four-year college where they graduate with a bachelor’s degree (many jobs in the criminal justice field require four-year degrees) or they go on to obtain a full-time job.

At the end of the 12-week internships, students are required to write a paper about what they learned. Their supervisors also give them grades.

As for Schrantz, she wants to take a break from school and, hopefully get a job at APD or Border Patrol, and then return to school to pursue her bachelor’s degree. Students must pass any agency’s background tests and maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA to participate in the intern program. APD is a bit stricter than most, requiring a 3.0 GPA

Daugherty said he works with the various agencies in New Mexico to find them interns who will be the right fit. The agencies tell him how many interns they can accommodate and the types of positions they need filled. Then Daugherty advises students to apply with whichever agency is in their area of interest.

“In selecting interns we concentrate on three key essentials, themes that run through the entire Criminal Justice Program,” Daugherty said. “They are professionalism, writing, and critical thinking.”

Writing is essential because people in this line of work must be able to write affidavits, investigation reports and more.

This fall, 673 students are enrolled in Criminal Justice classes. Some are already working in their career fields and want to enhance their skills by going to college. Others are discovering the field for the first time. Students who have been to a police academy, for example, will get credit for their time there, as do people who have been in the military or attended a corrections academy.

Before becoming interns, students must complete the majority of their Criminal Justice Program courses, which include the basics all the way through learning how to control a prisoner. There is even a mock prison cell that is located in the Criminal Justice Program where students learn these skills.

Most of the Criminal Justice courses can be taken online – especially for students who have participated in police and military academies.

All of the Criminal Justice faculty members have worked in the Criminal Justice field and bring their experiences into the classroom.

“We regularly get feedback from the agencies saying that no one comes to their agencies better prepared than our students,” Daugherty said.