40+ years of Criminal Justice at St. Cloud State
• 2,855 bachelor degrees awarded
• 463 master’s degrees awarded
• 7 full-time faculty
• Program founded in 1972
• 15 students were in the program’s first graduating class in 1975
In Bob Prout’s first week on his own as an Ohio state trooper he made the mistake he regretted most in his career.
The experience taught him the importance of understanding people and was just one of many experiences he shared with his St. Cloud State University students during his 43 years as a professor.
“I wanted them to learn that one word can change a person’s life,” said Prout, who retired in spring 2015.
In the 1960s, state troopers in Ohio were tasked with checking out rest areas on the interstate where sexual activity was reported to take place.
It was a task Prout didn’t like, but it was his job and he did it.
That first week he arrested two men for indecent exposure. One of them, a minister, told Prout if he arrested him he would lose his church.
Prout responded that he should have thought about the consequences before getting in the car. He added, “How could a man of God do such a thing.”
Apologizing in his next breath, Prout knew he’d made a mistake that he’d regret for the rest of his career.
Years later Prout learned that the minister committed suicide the morning after the arrest.
Hearing of the death, Prout said “I killed a man with my words.”
It’s a difficult experience for Prout to hang on to, but it also has been used to prepare more than 2,800 graduates for careers in many major criminal justice agencies about the power of words and actions.
Prout joined St. Cloud State University in 1972 to develop a criminal justice program and serve as its first faculty member.
Forty years have passed since the department’s first class of 15 crossed the commencement stage in 1975.
Today the department’s influence can be seen far and wide. Graduates can be found in most major criminal justice agencies in Minnesota, many federal agencies and in organizations worldwide. Almost 40 percent of St. Cloud Police Department officers hold St. Cloud State criminal justice degrees, some hold two.
“There are people all over the country doing great things,” Prout said.
Like Prout, many professors in the department share first-hand stories from the field.
Today the department has 10 career faculty members and 15 part-time adjunct faculty.
On the job
Police departments can train skills, but they need to have education to become well-rounded officers, said St. Cloud Police Commander James Steve ’87.
“To be a police officer, especially with the issues that we deal with on a day-to-day basis and the environment that we work with today,” Steve said. “You really need to have that balance, structure to do the job that we do.”
Steve uses skills he learned as a student in the 1980s every day in his role as commander in charge of operations. He supervises the day-to-day functions of all the department’s 105 officers — from patrolling to investigations.
“I always like to be as engaged as possible,” he said. “The more engaged we are, the better we are as police officers.”
He credits his time at St. Cloud State with enhancing his career. A four-year degree exposes you to diversity.
It really opens your eyes, Steve said.
The criminal justice department has developed a special relationship with the St. Cloud Police Department that includes research and internships. Most of the police department’s Community Service officers are St. Cloud State students or criminal justice graduates.
Professor Dick Andzenge worked with the police department to develop its community policing program and the city’s curfew policy. He also worked with the department and the diversity program on campus to develop the Community Service Officer Program to encourage minority students to go into the criminal justice field.
“When our students graduate the exposure that they have had prepares them and makes them test well when they go all over the country looking for a job,” Andzenge said.
— James Steve ’87
Many students have gone on to work in other departments, but the program has helped to recruit students to the program and people of color into the field, he said.
“The knowledge gained at the university and then put into a practical plan here is a win-win for both of us,” Steve said.
The police department also supports criminal justice through officers who serve as some of the adjunct professors bringing real-life experience into the classroom.
Officer Matthew Riekena ’14 knows this first hand. A ride along with Officer Tad Hoeschen helped him decide on criminal justice for his major freshman year.
Riekena went on to intern at the police department and served as a Community Service Officer for two years before joining the department as a training officer in May. He finished his training and became a full-time officer in August.
“(St. Cloud) State definitely made me want to stay here and work for this department, and I’m glad this is where I ended up,” Riekena said.
A growing profession
More than 40 years after St. Cloud State began its program, the field of criminal justice is continuing its move to increased professionalism.
Minnesota State Patrol Commander Lori Hodapp ’83 credits Prout with encouraging her to seek professionalism throughout her career. These days she’s the statewide commander of training and development for the Minnesota State Patrol, a professional public speaker and personal trainer. She serves on the board of directors for the Hiway Federal Credit Union in St. Paul.
“He influenced me in professionalism and in his embracement of lifelong learning,” she said. “As I’ve gone through my career, Prout has always been there. He and St. Cloud State really gave me a solid foundation for the rest of my career.”
Hodapp has seen the move toward professionalism throughout her career. When she started in the field, very few of her colleagues had a degree. Today the state patrol has a two-year degree minimum requirement and many criminal justice organizations prefer a four-year degree, Hodapp said.
St. Cloud State’s criminal justice program evolved with the profession — adding Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Skills Training, online courses and two master’s programs.
“We started out as a one-person program, evolved into an institute, then evolved into a center, then evolved into a program, then evolved into a department,” Prout said.
Along the way the program added two master’s programs — Criminal Justice and Public Safety Executive Leadership.
In these programs, students do practicums and thesis projects where they work in the real world of criminal justice or research real-world issues.
Students have studied global issues from human trafficking to the effectiveness of local domestic violence courts. They share their research locally and in the criminal justice organizations where they work and live, Andzenge said.
“That provides an understanding for the students and helps me to be able to develop a theory I can lecture on,” he said “But it also helps the court and so on.”
“We do quite a bit of research,” said Andzenge, who is currently studying 15 years of data to learn about community perceptions and racial profiling in St. Cloud.
— Lori Hodapp ’83
More than 30,000 students passing through Prout’s Survey of Criminal Justice during the three decades he taught the lecture class heard these stories and experiences, stories he’s now encompassed in “Trooper” a novel for criminal justice students about a man experiencing training and life as a new officer on the state patrol. The book was published in the spring.
“I wanted to present what it’s like for a new person to become a police officer — what they’re going to experience so they don’t make the same mistakes I did,” Prout said.
That attitude has stuck with Hodapp as she now trains officers in the state patrol.
“I believe that law enforcement needs well educated people. Our jobs need educated people. Our job is far beyond raw skills. Students receive this in school by making connections with fellow students, experiencing different cultures and learning from professors from other walks of life, Hodapp said.
People in law enforcement need education to see the impact of their actions and to understand what they’re doing as guardians and protectors of the people, she said.
“We need a warrior mindset as well because law enforcement is dangerous,” Hodapp said. “More often we are the guardians of peace. More than anything, I think, that’s where the four-year degree and broad-based education comes in.”