SWCC cruises into more hands-on learning

Southwestern Community College’s Criminal Justice Program has purchased, equipped, and designed a police cruiser for educational purposes. The project, which took only four-and-a-half days once it began, was completed around Christmas.

Criminal Justice Instructor Diogenes Ayala said the car the program previously utilized to educate students in performing traffic stops became unusable. The idea of purchasing a car with equipment was then presented to the board.

SWCC Vice President of Instruction Lindsay Stoaks said the board approved the purchase of the car at their December meeting. Ayala said the total cost of the project was $9,140.

A community effort

Ayala said sophomore Blaize Reha played a critical part in organizing the police car project. Reha, who is enrolled in the criminal justice program, said he began to look for a car around town that would fit the bill.

“I went out into the community and talked to the dealerships in the community and told them what we were looking for and what we were wanting to do,” he said.

Reha said he spoke with Tony Stuart from Hi-Crest Auto and purchased a white, Chevrolet Impala LTZ sedan for $6,000.

Reha said he also went to Big Boyz Toyz, 900 S. Division St., as they do equipment installation for the Creston Police Department and Union County Sheriff’s Office. Asa Denton at Big Boyz Toyz installed the equipment for $2,920. Tyler Wolf, owner of Big Boyz Toyz, said his company donated the police cruiser equipment they installed.

Ayala said between the LED lights, flashing headlights and taillights, radar system, sirens, speakers, and control panel, the equipment donation was worth about $5,000. Reha said Bobby Wintermute, owner of Graphic Displays in Creston, added the finishing touches. Ayala said the car’s decals totaled $220.

Reha said the project was one in which they sought to get the community involved.

“That was one of our key things, to try to keep everything local,” he said.

Ayala said that the local businesses involved played a key role.

“We obviously bought the car, we paid for the installation, we paid for the decals, but people kind of stepped up and reduced some rates in order for us to have this,” he said.

Hands-on learning

Ayala said the car made police cruiser will now serve as a mobile classroom.

“So, we can just kind of tool around campus and press the buttons and kind of help them understand what each button means,” he said.

Ayala said it will serve as an opportunity for students throughout the year, where as visits from the professionals are often short-lived.

“If I asked a Creston Police officer or state trooper to come in with their car, they could only stay for so long, because they have work to do,” he said.

Ayala said when police officers do come in, however, they will be able to utilize the program’s car for instruction.

“It has all the bells and whistles that a regular patrol car has,” he said.

Ayala said the car is strictly for campus use, with intentional decals which say, “SWCC COUNTY.”

“There’s nothing that would indicate that it’s a police car. We’re not going to drive it around Creston pulling people over — nothing like that,” he said.

Reha, who is set to graduate this spring, said the car offers multiple benefits to students.

“It’s great to get in there and get the feel with all the lights going, the siren, learning how to run radar,” he said.

Ayala said he would also like to utilize the car for marketing purposes in parades and give presentations to students at public schools.

“Little kids love this kind of stuff. We’ll have them come sit in the car and press the buttons,” he said.

Ayala said criminal justice students now have another tool for the classroom.

“The more hands-on, the better,” he said.

The program

Ayala said the program offers hands-on learning opportunities such as analyzing fingerprints and blood spatter, studying bullet trajectory, casting footprints, photographing artificial crime scenes, labeling evidence, and more at Taylor Crime Lab, located right on campus.

“The whole purpose of the program is to be functional. It’s not just learning, it’s the tools of the trade,” he said.

Some of these tools include drones, fake handguns, handcuffs, and body cameras. And the program invites professional guest speakers each semester such as attorneys, police officers, and even FBI agents.

“We’re trying to get students all the best they can before they go on to different jobs,” Ayala said.

Ayala said the project could not have come together without the support from the community and the college.

“Administration obviously sees some of the vision and definitely helps execute it,” he said.

According to their website, SWCC’s Criminal Justice Program is an option for students seeking a career as a law enforcement officer, bailiff, correctional officer, jailer, probation officer, correction treatment specialist, security officer, dispatcher, and more.

“Dio’s done a phenomenal job starting the program from the ground up. And he has just taken it, and then, ran with it,” Stoaks said.

For more information, visit swcciowa.edu/academics/areas-of-study/criminal-justice.