In the criminal justice system, there are three distinct agencies that perform different roles within a state. In Searcy, Arkansas, Harding students are given the opportunity to work alongside these agencies to gain academic credit and real-life work experience. One student spent a semester in action with one of these elite squads. This is his story.
Senior criminal justice major Truett Keener spent the fall 2016 semester interning with the White County Sheriff’s Office. Harding’s criminal justice program allows students to intern with various agencies, but Keener said he chose the sheriff’s office because it is something he sees himself doing in the future.
“I could have interned at a drug rehab facility or at the courthouse or with a children’s home, there are so many different agencies I could have interned with,” Keener said. “However, the sheriff’s office seemed the most practical and appealing to my future interests.”
There are three primary law enforcement departments that operate within a certain area: the city department (like the Searcy Police Department) operates within the city limits, the sheriff’s office operates within the full county, and state troopers operate on highways. Keener said the sheriff’s office seemed the most diverse to him with its many subdivisions from providing bailiffs for courtrooms to training K9 units.
“I definitely want to go into the patrol side of law enforcement, even though I recognize the importance of every single job within the police department and jail,” Keener said. “However, that’s where I feel best suited with the gifts God has given me, and I’d like to be able to serve in a more community-based setting.”
Keener said he was able to experience a wide range of law enforcement-based jobs based in all three parts of the criminal justice system: law enforcement, the judicial system and the penal system. Keener also said he worked directly alongside sheriff’s deputies and detectives and even sat inside courtrooms alongside bailiffs and jailers.
Despite being in contact with a wide range of people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, Keener said he never felt uncomfortable or unsafe while working.
“You’re dealing with the best people at their worst times and the worst people at their worst times, and because of that, some people might feel uncomfortable or intimidated by their behavior,” Keener said. “However, it was evident that everyone I worked alongside was more than prepared and able to handle each situation very appropriately. I enjoy working with those types of people and situations, so I thrived on it.”
Keener said he would be hard-pressed to select a favorite aspect of the internship, but he primarily enjoyed seeing the heart and passion officers have for the community, especially during a time when some people tend to adopt negative views of law enforcement.
“Sometimes, law enforcement officers are portrayed in a negative light, and I think part of that is that there will always be some bad apples. And that’s not excusable,” Keener said. “With that said, it was great seeing the officers on a more personal level and seeing what was going through their heads as they went through those situations. It gives off a totally different perspective than what people outside of law enforcement can see.”