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Experience and Passion Drive Professor's Teaching

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Experience and Passion Drive Professor's Teaching

Photo credit: Scott L. Huck/Cedarville University

by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, Ohio

May 25, 2009

When Patrick Oliver, director of the criminal justice program at Cedarville University, first set foot on campus, he already had more than 27 years of experience in law enforcement. In fact, he spent 16 years as chief of police at four Ohio agencies.

For some, that would be enough. But for Oliver, each past, present, and future experience is another opportunity to benefit his students.

“Criminal justice is a very dynamic field,” he says, “and if you don’t keep up with what practitioners are doing, you end up teaching outdated theories. It’s so important to know what is currently being done and to integrate that into your curriculum.”

One of the ways he stays current is through NOBLE — the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. In 1990, while chief for the Cleveland Metropolitan Park District, Oliver learned of the formation of a local NOBLE chapter and became one of its founding members. Not only did it give him a chance to network with law enforcement leaders from around the country, but it was also instrumental in his development as an officer and as a professor.

Oliver served as chapter president for three years and was on NOBLE’s national board from 1998 to 1999. The president at the time then appointed him to the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which he was on for nine years. He was also part of the education and training committee for five years and is currently director of the Mentoring Potential Chief Executive Officers program. Add to that his position as chair of the recruitment and retention committee, and it’s clear Oliver has a great deal of material to offer his students.

After the Smoke Clears
This past January, rioters stormed the streets of Oakland, Calif., following the fatal New Year’s Day shooting of an unarmed black man by a transit system police officer. Cell phone cameras caught Officer Johannes Mehserle firing a single shot into Oscar Grant III’s back as he lay facedown on the platform at the Fruitvale Station of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. The protesters burned cars and smashed storefronts, leading to the arrest of about 120 people.

Such a tragic event calls for an investigation, not only into what happened that day but also into the police department involved. With the latter in mind, the BART board of directors unanimously selected NOBLE to perform a thorough management study of their police department, and Oliver was named project director. Over the last few months, he and eight other consultants have been to California several times. They’re planning at least two more trips, with a completion deadline of Sept. 18.

“We’ve been asked to ascertain if there are any issues or concerns regarding the police agency,” Oliver says. “It’s a top-to-bottom review.”

Real-World Expertise
Oliver’s involvement in this project is indicative of the kind of expertise and integrity he brings to Cedarville University. And it’s something he’s been developing since he started out as a trooper for the Ohio State Highway Patrol. He says of that experience, “I was an investigator and did a lot of background investigations. I learned then how important high moral character is for those who want to work in criminal justice.”

Needless to say, this attitude has shaped Oliver’s impact on the criminal justice program at Cedarville. For instance, the degree now includes a personal financial management course and, since fall 2006, students are required to participate in an internship. Oliver has also helped create a new mission statement, a list of program objectives, and a set of core values, all of which provide a framework for the future growth and development of the criminal justice degree.

Oliver — who earned his bachelor’s in criminal justice and his M.B.A. from Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio — also brings his vast network of connections to the University. Not only can he help identify internships for students, but he can do a lot more … with longer-lasting benefits.

“It’s important that I stay active with the profession,” Oliver says. “And my passion, personally, is to use my network to help students find jobs.”

Recently, NOBLE established a CEO mentoring program with Cedarville University, designed “to provide prospective law enforcement CEOs with mentorship and professional development opportunities that will lead them on a pathway to success.” Oliver not only directs the program, but he also conceptualized it — just another way one of Cedarville’s top-notch professors will prepare criminal justice graduates for career success.

More Information

Learn more about the criminal justice program at Cedarville University.