Lauren Bolduc ’17 wasted no time beginning her career as a police officer, proactively taking practice exams, doing ride-alongs, and networking with local training officers to line up a job after graduation.
By the time Lauren Bolduc ’17 graduated from the criminal justice (CJ) program at Elms, she already had two years of experience as a patrol officer under her belt. How, you might ask? She sought out every resource, program, and networking opportunity she could, gaining experience as a cop before she even had her diploma in hand.
“You can actually do ride-alongs before you enter the police academy,” she said. “As I finished my junior year, I did some networking, took my entry exams, and started working part time at the Winchester Police Department in New Hampshire.”
After spending a total of three years with the Winchester PD, Lauren transferred to the police department in Northampton, MA, a unit that is known for its focus on community policing. When she completes her academy training in August 2018, she will continue her career as a patrol officer, although she’ll have a few extra perks at her new job.
“I was really interested in the Northampton PD because they have a lot of unique programs that other departments don’t,” she explained. “They do ‘Coffee with a Cop,’ which is where officers meet with people in town, have a cup of coffee, and listen to people’s concerns.”
“They also do a baseball-card trading program, where kids can collect cards with photos of each officer on them,” she added. “It’s a way for people to see us and feel like they can come talk to us when we aren’t in a police encounter.”
Thinking Like a Cop
To address the increasing scrutiny of police officers in the media, the criminal justice program at Elms offers a class on “Fair and Impartial Policing and Procedural Justice.” Lauren said that this course was beneficial because it teaches students how to avoid letting bias cloud their judgment.
“This class is crucial because it teaches you about biases,” she said. “It educates you on how to be aware of bias and how to work through it. As a police officer, you have to be fair and equal with everyone you interact with.”
“It’s resonating into the curriculum for the recruits,” said Jeff Couture, a police officer with the Chicopee Police Department and an adjunct faculty member in the CJ program. “Hopefully, they walk into class with that mindset already ingrained.”
This type of ethical thinking and action already translates to Lauren’s work as a patrol officer, she said.
“I want to make sure that I’m approachable and professional,” she explained. “I want to be a police officer where people in the community know that I have integrity and ethics.”
Network, Network, Network
While aspiring crime fighters might be eager to hit the streets after graduation, they might not realize that their first stop is actually right back where they just came from — the classroom.
In Lauren’s case, after completing her coursework at the Northampton police academy, she will embark on a 14-week field training program before she is officially an officer on duty. Graduating from a training academy is required, regardless of whether someone is going into law enforcement, corrections, or the sheriff’s department. Gaining entry to these programs, however, can be tricky.
“There are multiple steps to complete before you even get an offer, which I had no idea about before,” Lauren said. “The faculty do a great job at presenting opportunities for you to meet people who are currently working in all three fields. That way, you can have a conversation with them, and learn how to prepare.”
With networking events ranging from “speed dating”-style interviews to talks with guest speakers, Lauren felt like she had an edge when it came time to find a job.
“With the guest speakers, you can introduce yourself, have a quick conversation, and ask a question or two, which was really helpful,” she said.
For the truly ambitious student, the CJ faculty recommend taking practice exams from local PDs. The process is helpful because it teaches you not only common sense skills, Lauren said, but what you need to work on in order to eventually earn your badge.
“They’ll test you on how to read a map, for example,” she said. “You’re not really tested on that stuff coming into college, so you might not know if something is a strong suit or not. Starting that kind of stuff early will give you the opportunity to build on those skills and grow, so when you reach your senior year, you’ll do better on the entry exams.”
On the verge of an exciting new opportunity in Northampton, Lauren reflected back on the reason why she wanted to become a police officer in the first place.
“I knew I wanted to help people, but I also knew that I wasn’t a person who could work a normal desk job,” she said. “I thought this was a way to challenge myself mentally and physically, but still have an opportunity to engage the community in a mutually rewarding way.”
The criminal justice major at Elms prepares students for a wide range of careers in law enforcement, corrections, human services, and more. If you share Lauren’s dedication to upholding the law, contact us or schedule a campus visit to learn more.