Georgia Lodewyk – Staff Writer
Many kids grow up watching television or movies. They often identify with the characters and watch each scene of action or mystery unfold. They may hope to one day become one of those heroes, and fictional characters prompt career choices further down the road. For some of those kids, solving mysteries and fighting crime as a police officer became their goal.
For Dordt University students like Nate Monillas and Sydney Krommendyk, that childhood interest has become a lifelong passion. Cop shows, mysteries, and other television programs fascinated them from a young age. Now, they are criminal justice majors, ready to live out a path they have been imagining for years.
“Ever since elementary school, I’ve wanted to be a cool town sheriff.” said Monillas, a junior from Lynwood, Washington.
But real-life law enforcement is not Hollywood.
On May 25, 2020, Minnesota police arrested George Floyd for the use of a counterfeit $20 bill at a local Minneapolis grocery store. Officer Derek Chauvin killed Floyd as onlookers watched. Videos quickly started popping up on social media. Protests emerged nationally as people called for justice for Floyd, his family, and other victims of police brutality.
Since the death of Floyd, protests have successfully sparked police reform throughout the United States. According to a study from USA Today, over 34 U.S. cities have made changes, including better training and education for police officers, a ban on the use of chokeholds, and defunding police forces.
Professor Jon Moeller has been in law enforcement for 27 years, serving in Washington D.C, Kansas City, MO, and northwest Iowa. As a criminal justice professor at Dordt, Moeller works to prepare students for a career in law enforcement or criminal science. This includes the current challenges that future law enforcement officers must recognize.
“As information has sped up, so has the process of trying to effect change, but it is so divisive right now that there’s not even a dialogue to be had.” Moeller said. “We can’t even come to the table to have that discussion, and that’s what’s troublesome.”
Fighting against police brutality is one issue, but fighting against systemic racism is another. Professor Moeller and his criminal justice students say they can be involved in a positive change.
“I think reform is a good thing… policing in general will get better,” Monillas said.
Knowing about the issues and potential reforms our world is facing adds a new level of purpose for many criminal justice majors.
“If you truly want justice, you are going to fight for what’s right…what better way to do that than within the police system itself?” said Krommendyk, a freshman double-majoring in criminal justice and psychology.
Being a law enforcement officer in real life is not as simple as its portrayal in television shows and movies. It is a profession of fast-paced decision-making and, Professor Moeller says, opportunities for Christ-like grace.
“When you are grounded in scripture and your belief system, but you are also willing to understand the individual and approach them with grace…that’s how you bring about change.” Moeller said.