Year of Graduation: 1994
Current Position: Assistant Director for Research and Development, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
Please give a brief description of your current position and where you're working. I currently serve as the Assistant Director for Research and Development at the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services in Washington, DC (https://cops.usdoj.gov). We provide funding, training, and technical assistance directly to local law enforcement agencies around the country. As a member of senior management I am involved in planning the direction, goals and programs for the office. The division that I am responsible for develops and distributes best practices for law enforcement agencies and other public safety professionals. We conduct program evaluations, engage in applied research, manage pilot projects, participate in Federal inter-agency working groups and conduct reviews of specific law enforcement agencies and significant law enforcement events. For example, we recently completed a review of the police actions in response to the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California and are currently engaged in an analysis of the Minneapolis Police Department's response to the protests following the shooting of Jamar Clark.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
After completing my degree at St. John's I went directly to graduate school at Washington State University and completed a Master's degree and Ph.D. in Sociology with an emphasis in crime/device and criminology. After graduate school, I was offered a number of positions at various universities, however, I decided on a position with the Department of Justice. I began working as a Social Science Analyst and quickly moved into various management and leadership positions at the Department.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
The criminal justice field (policing, courts, probation, prisons, reentry) is in significant need of individuals who can put research into practice; that is taking findings and ideas based on sound research from a variety of disciplines and translating them into practical policies, procedures, and other organizational changes to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our system of justice. The ability to take findings from both the physical and social sciences and apply them to impact specific programs, policies and laws is a much needed skill. All fields have gaps between theory, research and practice; as what we do is often not based on what we know. Whatever their area of interest, I would encourage students to explore these gaps and to look for ways to fill them.
In many industries, internships can be an important way to get started, and this can be particularly true with careers in government. Almost all government agencies offer some form of internships and they can provide students with invaluable experiences. They provide a great entry point as I have seen many interns eventually hired as permanent employees.
What skills are important in your field?
Social science research skills, knowledge of statistics, writing ability and the ability to work collaboratively across disciplines are critical. A working knowledge of statistics can be incredibly valuable in almost all industries. Government agencies at all levels are constantly looking for ways to improve measurements of performance and effectiveness of their programs and policies. Those who understand and can use sound statistics and research to make the case for specific policies, laws, and programs are at a significant advantage. In addition, given the size of the Federal Government, the ability to work collaboratively across agencies and organizations is extremely useful.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
Many of my classes at SJU/CSB involved working, presenting, and sharing in group settings. In particular, I remember Annette Atkins freshman symposium where our class engaged in a great deal of joint learning and exploration. The ability to convey ideas in both small and large group settings and to work collaboratively with colleagues are important skills that I developed throughout my time at St. John's and has been critical in my career.
SJU/CSB also helped me to grow in my Catholic faith, which has prepared me not only for a career but more importantly for life. It has enabled me to better fulfill my vocation as a father for my children and spouse for my wife. As I have progressed through life, my Catholic faith has continued to grow in importance; it has grounded me and guided me. I would encourage students to spend time praying and listening to God and they will quickly find that their lives take on new dimensions, challenges and head in often unexpected directions.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
I find it excited to help in making the nation's criminal justice system more efficient, effective and fair. Our team is able to have a wide-reaching impact through the guidance, training, pilot programs, research and assessment findings, and grant dollars that we provide. For example, it is rewarding to advocate for an improvement to police operations and see it adopted by law enforcement agencies across the country. In the end, like many jobs, it is the committed professionals that I work with who make my day to day work enjoyable and fulfilling. No matter the discipline, the best jobs the ones with colleagues that you respect and enjoy.