Chris Jones embarks on career in law enforcement while pursuing criminology and criminal justice degree at UMSL

by | Jul 10, 2023

Jones first got the opportunity to work with a local police department through the Boy Scouts Exploring program.
UMSL student Chris Jones

After initially getting involved with law enforcement through the Boy Scouts Exploring program, Chris Jones went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice at UMSL. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

All it took for Chris Jones to set course on his future career was an informational meeting and a quick perusal of a brochure. From the moment he first heard about the opportunity to work with a local police department through the Boy Scouts of America Greater St. Louis Area Council’s Exploring Program when he was 14 years old, Jones knew he wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“It was something that I actually enjoyed being able to do in my free time and learn something that I have never seen before, as well as be able to help others in the process,” said Jones, who is gearing up for his sophomore year in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Exploring is a career exploration program that pairs students between the ages of 14 and 20 with local companies and organizations so that they can gain real-world experience in their chosen field. The program is designed so that students can get a sense of whether or not a particular career is right for them while still in high school and college. In Jones’ case, the program only helped solidify his ambitions of becoming a police officer.

“The police officers act as advisors and basically teach you and show you what it’s like to be in law enforcement,” he said. “They’ll tell you stories of things they have experienced and also teach you how to do those things. It teaches you how to be a better person, speak to others and prepares you for a potential career in law enforcement. I was able to do lots of things that police officers do on a daily basis, but of course on a smaller scale. I was able to interact with the community, train and do hands-on things with actual police officers and other children around the same age as myself.”

Earlier this summer, Jones shared a little insight into the impact that the Exploring program has had on his life during the BSA Greater St. Louis Area Council’s business meeting.

“The impact of the Exploring program for me was basically just being able to speak to others and help others, as well,” Jones said. “It taught me a lot of things such as responsibility and being able to do a lot of other things that I may not have been able to do if I wasn’t an Explorer, such as competing with others, learning how to communicate with others and being able to participate in community engagement.”

Community engagement, in particular, is what continues to draw Jones to law enforcement. He enjoys getting out into the community at events around town, whether a Fourth of July parade or an Easter egg hunt, and connecting with the people who live in a given neighborhood.

“The community engagement aspect of it is pretty much just getting to know the community that you’re in and being able to let people know that there are people who are concerned and that there are people who are willing to help,” he said. “It gives us a way to speak to the neighborhood, speak to the people – just figure out the people who live there and see how they’re living, how they’re doing and be able to assist them during the time that we are there. You just have to think bigger and just get a broader view of things.”

Jones’ work through the Exploring program has helped prepare him for his current role as a police cadet in the Metropolitan Police Department of the City of St. Louis. Since starting the cadet program a little over a year ago, he’s been able to get hands-on experience in different areas of the department, such as prisoner processing and telephone reporting, to help him get a sense of the many different roles available within the field.

Jones has been enjoying learning new skills and getting a real-world look at law enforcement while also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice at UMSL. Courses he’s taken in his first year in the program, such as Criminal Law, have helped broaden his knowledge of state, federal and case law and, in turn, assisted him day-to-day in the work he does for the department.

“It allowed me to get an idea on civil liberties and rights of the people as well as things that are against the law for people to commit, such as murder or just running a red light, and laws that protect citizens or law enforcement,” he said. “I’m able to tell the difference between those different types of laws when I go to work and see the crimes that people are committing and know the process of being arrested all the way up to going to court and being sentenced.”

Jones’ desire to become a police officer has only strengthened since he first picked up that brochure all those years ago. While for now, he’s focused on his studies and his work as a cadet, he plans to head straight into the St. Louis Police Academy upon graduation and work as an officer within the City of St. Louis.

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Heather Riske

Heather Riske

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