Chief SmithThe University of Central Missouri’s Criminal Justice and Criminology program has prepared students for careers in law enforcement since 1962.


Students can take courses in law enforcement, institutional and community corrections, juvenile justice, victims’ services, and law. Because of the duration of our program, the department has many alumni working in these challenging professions. Our alumni have taken their academic degrees and applied them to practical problem-solving in professions that benefit the community, state, and nation. These alumni are now professionals who give back to current students by providing opportunities such as guest speaking, internships, and instituting new initiatives to solve criminal justice problems.


One such alumnus is the 45th Chief of Police of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, Richard C. Smith, who received a Master of Science in Criminal Justice from UCM. Being responsible for 1,300 sworn officers and 560 civilian employees, the decision to go back to school was difficult for many reasons, and Chief Smith had to balance the time commitment with his professional duties. However, once at UCM he enjoyed his classes, the discussion with other students, and the sense of accomplishment that increased as he approached graduation.


Smith, who is responsible for 1,300 sworn officers and 560 civilian employees, now gives back to current UCM students by providing internships. “Internships are a wonderful opportunity for KCPD to show students the quality of our department, and would be beneficial to other great organizations for the same reason,” Smith said. “KCPD, in turn, has the opportunity to help guide a student and hopefully set them up for success when they choose to start their careers.”


Chief Smith continues to use what he learned at UCM to innovate new solutions, including placing a social worker at each patrol division to help officers approach issues that are more complex and require specialized knowledge and resources. With funding from The Hall Family Foundation and the city, KCPD has seven social workers assigned to each patrol division. This new Social Workers Program could provide opportunities for future UCM students and professors in evaluating and enhancing the program.




Another UCM alumnus, Trooper Tyler Cunningham, '11, of the Missouri Highway Patrol, is also providing support to UCM students through guest speaking in classes, serving as an Advisory Board member, conducting Career Services mock interviews, and meeting with students at career fairs. In addition to enforcing traffic laws, he is a recruiter and crisis negotiator for the Hostage Team. Trooper Cunningham graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from UCM and is currently working on a Master’s degree in Leadership and Management.


At UCM, Cunningham participated in an internship with the Security Department of Worlds of Fun, an opportunity that provided valuable experience in important law enforcement functions. His career was also influenced by a student alliance program offered at UCM - a special course in partnership with the Missouri Highway Patrol. In the class, Trooper Cunningham experienced Highway Patrol operations such as accident reconstruction, canine uses, commercial vehicle inspections, and the aviation helicopter unit. This invaluable experience provided him with career-ready skills upon graduation.


John Ham


The impact of UCM’s Criminal Justice program continues at the federal level. John E. Ham, public information officer for the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, graduated from UCM in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration. He serves as the media and public information consultant to the Special Agent in Charge and other members of the Division Management Team. He is the primary point of contact for Congressional staff members, local and state government representatives, community groups, and representatives of private industry within the Kansas City Field Division.


While at UCM, Ham participated in an internship with the Independence Police Department. This first-hand experience provided immense value, and affirmed his desire to seek a career in law enforcement. Officer Ham now serves as the primary recruiter and intern coordinator for the Division, a role that allows him to work closely with UCM interns at the ATF. “It is certainly no surprise to me that the quality of the interns coming to us from UCM is absolutely top notch,” Ham said. “The consistent professionalism, demeanor, and confidence they bring into our internship program are all reasons we can continually place them in our offices and expose them to exciting work that our agents are doing every day.”


As UCM Criminal Justice and Criminology majors continue to serve and protect their local, regional, and national communities, they are supported in their careers by the education they received at UCM and their fellow alumni in law enforcement. “UCM’s Criminal Justice program is so well respected throughout the law enforcement community,” Ham said. “Whether students realize this or not, they are already part of an enormous network of law enforcement. The number of UCM alumni that are leaders, managers, and recruiters with federal agencies throughout the United States is significant. To those executives, a degree from UCM is an instant connection and an important indicator of the quality education, professionalism, and self-motivation of the applicant.”



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