Jackson Parker was always a fan of TV shows like Law and Order SVU, but for people who pursue a career in criminal justice, standing on the sidelines is never enough. He recalls watching those shows during his first year at Strayer University. “I admired the discipline and passion of the detectives,” he says. “That’s what inspired me to contact the local police department and set up a ride-along.”

By then, Jackson had completed two tours of duty in Iraq as a soldier in the U.S. Army. He had declared a major in Criminal Justice (CRJ), but there were other degree programs to consider. He figured a ride-along with local police would give him a clearer idea if law enforcement was the right path to take.

By the end of that first ride-along, there was no more doubt. Jackson threw himself into his studies and applied to law enforcement agencies in his spare time. As a result of his drive and dedication, he was sworn in as a Federal police officer the week before he graduated with honors from Strayer. He spent six years in the force, and his experience ranged from conducting local patrols to providing dignitary security for First Lady Michelle Obama and Prince Henry of Wales.

“It was a huge honor to have protected famous and important people during my time as a police officer,” Jackson says. “You need to have total confidence in the team, equipment, and security plan. Most of us on that team were Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, making a high-pressured situation into just another Tuesday afternoon.”

GROWING INTO A NEW ROLE

Jackson’s service in the military, his education at Strayer, and his tenure with the Federal police all helped prepare him for his current role as special agent in a major law enforcement agency. In a job that involves high-level investigative work, having the right education is critical.

“The combination of serving as a police officer and having that bachelor’s degree from Strayer was the perfect recipe to obtain this position,” Jackson says. “I firmly believe that my time at Strayer gave me the tools needed to be effective out in the field, while giving me an edge over everyone else. For me, criminal justice ethics was a particularly important area of study. Integrity and honesty are paramount to this business.”

If one thing is apparent from Jackson’s career climb, it’s that commitment and dedication can take you a long way, but the complexity of law enforcement in the 21st century means that continued growth is necessary. “It’s hard to describe how much technology and social media have transformed our lives,” he says. “The criminal justice system is a living, breathing entity that changes with the times.”

CONTINUING THE JOURNEY AT STRAYER

His ongoing need for education that is flexible and relevant led Jackson to pursue his Master’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Project Management at Strayer. The work of a special agent is multi-faceted, and knowing what’s at stake gives him a heartfelt reason to hit the books.

“The number one thing that drives me is national security,” he explains. “Serving in this capacity grants me the ability to provide investigative work that will protect this country. On the flip side, if I don’t follow an investigation to certain standards, it will adversely impact American lives. Knowing that my investigations have an impact on our democracy really inspires me to do the best I can.”

ADVICE TO PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS

When asked about characteristics that define a skilled criminal justice professional, he doesn’t hesitate.

“Patience is my number one,” he says. “It’s a virtue that applies to many different roles in the field. As a police officer, you may have conducted over 100 cases dealing with domestic violence, but the one time you lose your professionalism or bearing, it can tarnish your name. It’s important to have time between shifts to cool down, regroup, and head back out on patrol with a clear mind.”

Being exposed to different cultures and mindsets is another important ingredient to success, according to Jackson.

“I remember rendering security for protests in the Washington, D.C. area,” he recalls. “Some of the themes were not in line with my personal view, but it didn’t matter. I took an oath to uphold the law, do what’s right, and be respectful to everyone. That’s the level of integrity you have to bring to work every day.”

FINDING THE RIGHT TRAJECTORY

Criminal justice is a sprawling field, and not everyone who pursues it will follow a trajectory quite like Jackson’s. Whatever branch of criminal justice a student might be interested in, Jackson recommends careful research.

“Every geographical location is different, and it's important to know what’s available,” he advises. “Law enforcement positions in Washington, D.C. will be different than those in Texas, for example. You have to consider the various cultures, terrains, and specialized units. Whatever your interest or specialty, I highly encourage people to obtain a degree prior to serving in law enforcement. It will only make for a better agency and community.”

Mr. Parker’s views are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Strayer University.  The criminal justice program at Strayer University is respected by employers in the law enforcement field. Learn more about Strayer University’s Criminal Justice program, or call an admissions officer at 877-445-7180.

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