A Crime Fighting Careers Panel was hosted by the Career Center at California State University, Dominguez Hills on Nov. 9 in the Loker Student Union. Carol Bosman-Anderson, the center’s interim director, invited professionals in crime fighting careers who did not necessarily have a criminal justice degree, but who were successful in their chosen fields. She selected these guests to show students that many majors can be useful in preparing for a career in law enforcement and students do not need to major in criminal justice in order to pursue a crime fighting career.
CSU Dominguez Hills welcomed panelists Brian Campbell and Rachelle Aberin (IRS), Sam Jojola (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Mark Winchester (FBI), and alumna Shanna Kelly (Class of ’07, M.S., biology; Los Angeles Police Department).
Aberin, who works in the IRS Criminal Investigations Division as a special agent, earned her B.A in history from Stanford University and a master’s degree in counseling from the University of La Verne. Yet her experience as a social worker made her an excellent candidate for her position with the IRS; the people skills she has developed allow her to not be intimidated and to be able to communicate with a variety of people to gain the information she needs to close a case.
“I have the ability to interact from professionals to anyone,” she said. She began her crime-fighting training without any knowledge of how to operate a gun and did not have a law enforcement background; what she had, however, was determination and the ability to interact with people well. She graduated from a comprehensive training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga. a year ago.
Campbell, a special agent from the IRS and Aberin’s partner, earned a B.A in history at CSU Northridge, which allowed him to begin working at the IRS Tax Services sector. He also minored in political science. “A degree opens a lot of opportunities,” Campbell explained, and his degree gave him the opportunity to begin a career in the IRS and then work his way up. But most importantly, it helped him with his writing skills especially when cases became very technical.
“Get your degree and find a career you love as much as I love mine,” Campbell said.
Winchester is a special agent for the FBI who also uses interpersonal skills in order to solve crimes and maintain community safety. He attended Cal Poly Pomona where he earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting. He began his career with the FBI 21 years ago and was encouraged to pursue it by an FBI recruiter he met on campus.
Winchester has previously worked with the Mexican Mafia to gain intelligence on kingpins that control their criminal organizations from jails. He has also worked on cold case homicides that have been on the books for up to 15 years. He described the many opportunities and different careers within the FBI besides working on cases, which include serving on the Evidence Response Team (ERT), SWAT Team, or as a firearm instructor, management and program analyst, telecommunications specialist, financial operations specialist, and administrative specialist.
Jojola was an undercover agent for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is a small agency under the U.S Department of the Interior. As an undercover agent, he had to give up his own identity to take six different identities throughout his career to be able to deeply investigate cases of illegal trafficking in wildlife, violations against the Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act, and anything related to the preservation of nature in the United States.
Jojola speaks three languages: English, Spanish, and jail slang. He learned jail slang when he worked at the penitentiary of New Mexico as a correctional officer in 1976 before he went to New Mexico State University to earn his degree in wildlife. He also has great memory skills because as a former undercover agent, he had to memorize all the information he obtained by writing cryptic notes at a time when advanced computer technology did not exist.
“I escorted inmates to and from court, to educational facilities and around the prison,” said Jojola. “I worked on maximum security and death row and worked on shotgun patrol outside the perimeter of the prison. I routinely searched inmates and their personal areas (cells) to look for contraband. I found heroin several times concealed in personal belongings inside inmate cells.
“I worked around some dangerous inmates and it was a life-changing experience for me that helped me enormously in my career, especially in covert operations,” Jojola continued. “I experienced three riots during my work at the prison which really educated me in how adaptive inmates can be. In essence, this experience gave me a lot of street smarts in dealing with the criminal element and how to approach people involved in criminal activity.”
Kelly works as a criminalist for the LAPD Scientific Investigation Division in the Serology DNA Unit because of her extensive experience in biology. She worked with Dr. Laura Robles, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Behavioral Sciences at CSU Dominguez Hills in the lab as a biology research associate while earning her master’s degrees in biology.
Kelly had no previous experience in forensics, but her background in the field of science and strong leadership skills gained from running Dr. Robles’s retinal cell laboratory and writing research grants made her a strong candidate for the LAPD Scientific Investigation Division, where she works as a DNA analyst. Unlike the previous crime fighting officers, Kelly does not carry a gun since she is mostly dedicated to analyzing evidence.
Kelly says that her education was instrumental in guiding her career path, especially while she was an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“As a sophomore at MIT, I participated in a summer research internship at the Whitehead Biomedical Research Institute in Cambridge, where I was first introduced to the possibility of using molecular biology techniques to solve crime,” she said. “Kary Mullis, the scientist who invented the [polymerase chain reaction] technique to amplify DNA, testified in the O.J. Simpson trial. Her testimony in the trial is what turned me on to forensic science.”
The Crime Fighting Careers Panel gave students the opportunity to explore different careers within law enforcement that benefit the community. Students learned that they can apply any degree to these careers and that their character, skills, and experiences will make them perfect candidates. CSU Dominguez Hills is proud to host events such as these to inspire students to expand their selection of careers and learn more about them.