An Innovative Partnership of Law Enforcement and Higher Education

Article excerpt

Today, criminal justice administration requires an unprecedented level of sophistication. Accordingly, law enforcement agencies throughout the nation encourage their personnel to pursue professional degree programs. To this end, the Los Angeles County, California, Sheriff's Department teams with local colleges and universities to help its employees earn degrees, from the associate to the doctorate level.


The agency partnered with Woodbury University in Burbank, California, to develop the innovative bachelor of arts in organizational leadership (BOL), which helps to develop leadership qualities in Los Angeles County sworn and civilian employees serving the area's diverse communities. The curriculum provides candidates the rigorous intellectual and practical training they need to identify and meet executive responsibilities toward both colleagues and the public.


Other administrative arenas and urban areas may find the BOL a useful model to consider. Los Angeles County has over 95,000 budgeted workers representing law and justice, health care, and social services occupations; the program has graduates and current students from most of these specialties. (1) The county's diverse sectors make it a challenging but enlightening training ground for managerial and leadership skills applicable across the United States.


For entry to the program, candidates must have an associate degree or 75 semester units (some coursework can be completed after admission). All students work full time and have returned to school after an average of 10 years, some as many as 25. Individuals pursue the degree for personal growth, as well as for professional or financial reasons, while juggling academic, job, and family demands.

In this personally and academically intensive program, students progress through the courses as a cohort, attending weekly 4-hour workshops, completing course material in teams and individually, and graduating as a group. In 2 1/2 years, candidates complete 16 seven-week classes in sequence, each of which builds on information taught in previous courses.


Courses in the BOL program follow an order designed to identify and develop executive talents in students and prepare them for leadership roles in the public and private sectors. First, Leadership Theory and Practice I and II examine the history and evolving concepts of leadership, analyze elements of both successful and ineffective management, and compare leadership styles. Students scrutinize the executive qualities of a specific contemporary or historical figure. Then, they apply what they have learned about effective management by planning and directing a class discussion.

Building upon the leadership courses, the next two classes address supervisory concerns in public organizations. Critical Analysis and Decision Making considers the role of empirical analysis in developing public policy, while Leadership and Social Responsibility investigates ethical dilemmas faced in implementing such policies.

The next course, Organizational Structure: Private and Public Sectors, first uses sociological models to explore issues of diversity, structure versus openness, and personnel management (including conflict resolution and collective bargaining) in public organizations. Then, it compares these concerns with analogous ones in private-sector administration and helps class members distinguish the specific challenges of each organizational system.

After their exposure to diversity issues in the public and private sectors, candidates study Personnel Development and Organizational Culture, which covers such human resource management matters as recruiting, hiring, training, and retaining employees in a multicultural society. Then, Diversity and Organizational Culture teaches these future leaders of diverse groups to forge an inclusive climate. …