“This career will expose you to life at its best and worst,” says Lt. James A. Sarkos.
Sarkos, 39, started his career in law enforcement as a Class I Special Officer for the Ventnor Police Department. He has seen the field evolve while he has advanced through the ranks to his current post with the Atlantic City Police Department.
“Law enforcement is transitioning away from a rigid paramilitary organization to a coalition where the community and police work as partners to identify and prioritize problems of crime and disorder,” Sarkos says.
“Together, they share the responsibility for development and implementation of proactive problem solving strategies. There has also been a huge push for departments to increase their effectiveness by using technology.”
Since Sarkos graduated from Atlantic Cape Community College in 1996, that includes the addition of gunshot detection systems, body cameras, unmanned aerial systems and an emphasis on forensics.
Assistant Professor Dean Wyks brings decades of experience in the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office to the classroom.
“Atlantic Cape works with local law enforcement officials on what courses and degrees we offer to stay on top of the curve,” says Dean Wyks, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice.
That includes incorporating UAS technology and partnering with ACPD to explore its uses in law enforcement, and developing courses in cybercrime, crime mapping, terrorism and computer forensics. The college also relies on experienced professionals to teach these classes.
“Our instructors have had a career. They provide theory and the practical use of the skills. They have gone through different models and eras on policing,” Wyks says. “This helps shape where we are going.”
Although many jobs in law enforcement require only a high school diploma for entry-level positions, more and more agencies are adding degree requirements.
“Social problems, mental health and homelessness have become criminal justice issues. Drug problems are not handled as medical issues, but in the legal system,” Wyks says. “A police officer now encompasses some responsibilities of a social worker, drug counselor and mental health worker.”
Sarkos agrees. “This job requires an abundance of skills, including patience, tolerance, dedication, compassion and the ability to make split-second decisions.”
Education Opens Doors
Sarkos says Atlantic Cape prepared him well, but it was just the first stop for his education. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Stockton University and a master’s in Human Resources Training and Development from Seton Hall University. He also is a graduate of the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police West Point Command and Leadership Program.
“I encourage students to get their bachelor’s because it opens doors for promotion. Education is a key component to advancement in criminal justice,” says Wyks, who refers his students to the Rutgers at Atlantic Cape facility at the Mays Landing Campus, where students can earn a bachelor’s in Criminal Justice.
Atlantic City Police Department Sgt. George Adams is another graduate of Atlantic Cape’s Criminal Justice program who says his experience at the college opened doors in his career.
“Some of the professors who taught me were former law enforcement officers. They were able to provide the class with first-hand knowledge and share experiences,” Adams says. “I’m also thankful for the online courses that allowed me the time and convenience to continue my education while working and raising a family.”
Adams graduated from the police academy in 1996 and began working as a patrol officer in Atlantic City. In 2000, he joined the K-9 unit and has since worked with three K-9s and earned top honors at several competitions. In 2008 he and his K-9 placed 10th in the country.
Sarkos, who started in patrol, is now lieutenant and commander of the Atlantic City SWAT team.
Technology as a Force Multiplier
Keeping pace with technology remains paramount to meet the demands on modern law enforcement agencies.
“I am a strong believer that technology can serve as a force multiplier for law enforcement agencies,” Sarkos says.
He was project manager for the implementation of the gunshot audio-detection system ShotSpotter in Atlantic City in 2013.
The sensors triangulate to pick up any loud bang, and then experts listen to determine whether it was a gunshot. Once verified, an alert is sent to police. The process takes seconds and gives police an exact location.
“I have seen first-hand how this incredible technology has increased our ability to identify, respond and to investigate gunfire in Atlantic City,” Sarkos says.
Adams says the addition of body cameras is part of a new era of law enforcement.
“Body cameras have helped provide transparency to the public and reduce the number of frivolous complaints against officers,” he says.
Choosing Your Path
The majority of Atlantic Cape’s Criminal Justice majors pursue careers as a police officer or corrections officer, however, related fields of crime scene investigation and criminology are seeing increased growth in jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.
“There are many sub-fields to choose from. I would recommend researching whatever job or position you are interested in and go from there,” Adams says. “There will always be crime and the need to prosecute criminals, and there will always be the need for someone to serve and protect the citizens, supervise inmates, and prepare and defend cases. The degree in Criminal Justice may be the deciding factor on whether or not you get the job over the next applicant.”
- Stacey Clapp
Col. Rick Arroyo
Delaware River Bay Authority Police
New Jersey State Police, Retired
Officer Clear Constantino
Egg Harbor Township Police, Retired
Sgt. Keith Carmack
Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, Retired
Jesse Deane, Esq.
Cape May County Public Defender
Det. Sgt. 1st Class John Heenan
Atlantic City Police Department, Retired
Lt. Al Kaplan
New York Police Department, Retired
Chief Chris Leusner
Middle Township Police
Warden, Atlantic County Jail, Retired
Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, Retired
Careers in Criminal Justice
- ATF Agent
- Border Patrol Officer
- Coast Guard Intelligence Agent
- Corrections Officer
- Court Clerk
- Court Reporter
- Crime Scene Investigator
- Customs Agent
- DEA Agent
- FBI Agent
- Forensic Scientist
- Homeland Security
- Juvenile Justice Officer
- Military Police Officer
- Parole Officer
- Police Detective
- Police Officer
- Private Investigator
- Private Security Agent
- Probation Officer
- Secret Service Agent
- U.S. Marshal
- Forensic Science
- Introduction to Criminology
- Police Operations
- Introduction to Corrections
- Introduction to Cyber Crimes
- Introduction to Terrorism
- Women in the Criminal Justice System
- Victimless Crime
- Crime Analysis, Crime Mapping and GIS
- Concepts in Homeland Security
- Criminal Investigation
- Juvenile Justice
- Community Based Corrections
- Trial Advocacy
- Organized Crime