Heartland criminal justice course graduates return as professionals

Heartland Career Center students listen as Carmel Police Department Officer Nick Striker (center) shares some of his experiences in the law enforcement field. Striker joined law enforcement officers (back row, from left) Devin Bechtold, Hunter Law and Parker Stouffer to exhibit the importance of the Heartland class’s teachings and how they will remain important even into professional careers. Photo by Emma Rausch

By Emma Rausch

Four law enforcement officers returned to their former Heartland Career Center classroom Monday, May 8, and provided current criminal justice students a glimpse into their possible futures in the profession.

Officers Nick Striker, Hunter Law, Parker Stouffer and Devin Bechtold, all Southwood High School graduates, shared their experiences in the law enforcement field. However, their stories weren’t the primary reason for their return to Heartland, according to Leroy Striker, criminal justice course instructor.

“This (class) here specifically is bringing in individuals that have completed my program, that have went through Heartland Career Center and completed 12 college credits, four classes with my program, and now they’re out in the world and utilized these classes to become what they are today,” he told The Paper of Wabash County.

“One of the main goals is to show the law enforcement aspect of the (Heartland) program, because initially it was a law enforcement program class,” he later added. “However, we push through a lot of individuals who get careers in the criminal justice field, such as probation, corrections, working with dispatch and other (areas) like military and police. But this is the first group of individuals that I’ve had that have actually completed the law enforcement academy and are actually law enforcement officers.”

The four men are the first students that completed Striker’s program to successfully graduate from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) and become full-time, paid officers, according to Mr. Striker.

All four graduated from the academy within the past 12 months.

Currently, Nick Striker, Striker’s son, is a member of the Carmel Police Department while Law, a conservation officer, serves the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Stouffer and Bechtold are both officers with the North Manchester Police Department.

Students asked questions ranging from if it was odd for Officer Striker to have his father as a teacher to how inconsistent work schedules affected their daily lives.

The Heartland course also proved essential to their professional careers, in part because it helped save them money when pursuing the field, the four officers agreed.

“I feel like one of the major things that this class taught me was how to write a proper report,” Officer Striker told The Paper. “You think of watching ‘Cops’ and you see all these people getting in fights and stuff like that. Yeah that lasts 10 seconds, but 10 seconds means like three hours of paperwork. If you can’t adequately put your thoughts down on paper so that an average citizen can read that and listen to that in court, … then you’re going to bury yourself, you’re going to put your own nail in your coffin so to speak.

“So I think that’s one of the most important things that this class taught me, how to put the correct detail into the narrative in a case report so that someone can understand what I was thinking about at the time.”

Stouffer agreed with the younger Striker and added, “I think it taught me how to be a student before I became a student (in college).”

“This class was more challenging than a lot of the college classes that I had,” he continued, “and so the report writing was a big deal. I was a horrible English, just grammar guy in general, and Mr. Striker kind of beat that out of me with all the reports that we had to write and he also treated me as a professional student.

“I started taking things more seriously. My study habits got a lot better here, believe it or not.”

By taking Striker’s course, Law said that he felt he had a “one up” on other students.

“Through this class, you had college credits and you basically opt out of some college classes when you first went in and that actually helped me out,” Law said. “Something happened with my schedule and it got switched around and I took the wrong classes, (but) the credits I received in here, it made it to where I could graduate on time. It helped me out.”

Thanks to the class, Bechtold had nine college credits before graduating high school.

“For college, that tested me out of two entry courses,” he said. “My freshman year I was taking classes with sophomores. So I was basically a year ahead college wise and it was free.”

Posted on 2017 May 16