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Million-dollar school expansion an ‘investment in community’

July 06, 2007

The state budget inclusion of $1 million in funding for expansion of ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is a commitment to the greater Phoenix community and all of Arizona, according to the director of the school.

“This is a wonderful investment in the community and an investment in the state,” says Scott Decker, a nationally renowned criminologist who came to ASU from the University of Missouri last summer and launched the school in November.

“With that level of commitment, we will be better equipped to help the state of Arizona more effectively meet its growing need for an educated criminal justice work force, which will continue to grow dramatically over the next decade. The school’s expanded research will meet the growing demands of the region and state in addressing crime, justice and disorder. Educational excellence that comes with the expansion of new degree programs equates to a better educated workforce and is the key ingredient in achieving greater levels of public safety.”

Decker isn’t the only one applauding the lawmakers’ inclusion of support for the ASU school.

“This support from the state will mean the expansion of the resources and collaborative partnerships we have with ASU and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice,” says Kevin Robinson, Phoenix assistant chief of police. “These types of partnerships and their continued growth and expansion are valuable and vital as we move forward and care for our community; this is the way things get done and improve.”

Robinson also noted the positive impact of additional work force support.

“We have looked forward to, and have come to expect, the graduates of ASU’s criminal justice program to become leaders in this department, and we will continue to do so and know that the numbers will grow with the expansion of the program to meet our needs.”

In Peoria, the police department is faced with the same recruiting challenges most Valley and state law enforcement agencies experience. Peoria Chief of Police Larry Ratcliffe says the ASU school has made a difference in his department.

“The school prepares students for a variety of careers in the law enforcement field, and we find that students who come out of a program like this have an advantage over others, and their enhanced knowledge compared to other applicants makes our job easier in terms of specific training,” says Ratcliffe.

“Our agency has placed many interns from the school in the past several years and has benefited by having these students bring to their internships the latest trends and approaches the field has to offer.”

Decker noted the importance of such funding as it relates to Arizona’s border issues.

“Phoenix and the state of Arizona have relatively little higher education infrastructure dedicated to the study of crime, improving the criminal justice system, and educating the rapidly growing sector of criminal justice employment,” he says. “The location of ASU and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice makes it an important site for teaching, research, policy and practice in areas that affect the Southwestern border. These issues include human trafficking, drug and weapon smuggling, correctional practices, and a host of related issues that make the mission of the school integral to an Arizona State University that produces use-based knowledge.”

The school was authorized June 21 to implement its first doctoral degree program (Ph.D., Criminology and Criminal Justice), as well as a master’s in criminology and criminal justice, by the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR).

Decker’s vision for the school leverages its location in one of the largest and fastest growing metro areas in the country to expand its programs to provide an improved quality of life. He believes the funding addresses the school mission.

“This is a shot in the arm to an already-strong program that will be of great benefit to residents across the state and right here in the Valley. The school has grown dramatically in the past four years, and our citizens and the various public law enforcement agencies we work with expect and deserve no less,” says Decker, who received his master’s degree and Ph.D. in criminology from Florida State University and has written 12 books on the subject.

“As a New American University, we have an obligation to the people of this community and the state to work on their behalf, to be socially responsible and to make a positive difference,” says Decker. “We will expand our degree offerings for baccalaureate degrees, as well as for graduate degrees for those who seek graduate-level work.

“The funding for expansion of the school will positively impact people across the state and will help us take our partnerships, research, teaching and our programs to greater heights that will allow us make such a difference in the areas of crime and justice.

“With the solid partnerships we enjoy with agencies and institutions of criminal justice, this commitment by the state to expand the programs of our school will go far beyond the university’s boundaries.”