For Criminal Justice Month, Daymar College is honoring graduates and educators of our Criminal Justice program who are making a difference every day in their communities. Since the US Congress established it in 2009, the purpose of National Criminal Justice Month has been “to promote societal awareness regarding the causes and consequences of crime, as well as strategies for preventing and responding to crime”. Those who pursue careers in criminal justice contribute to crime prevention every day, and we would like to use the month of March to thank them for their commitment.
A classroom cannot entirely prepare you for a career in criminal justice. You can’t learn the ins and outs of police work solely from a lecture. On their own, books don’t prepare you for the challenges you face on the job. Daymar College — Madisonville criminal justice professor Shawn Bean knows that better than most. A 21-year veteran of law enforcement, Shawn applies his real-world police and corrections experience with textbook lessons to give his students a comprehensive education.
“It’s a lot like baking a cake,” Shawn said. “You can read about baking a cake from a book or recipe card but it is hard to teach how to. Until you have actually done the work you can’t really explain how to bake a cake step by step.”
Students in Shawn’s classes at in the Criminal Justice Degree program get hands-on experience with fingerprinting and crime scene photography. He also requires students to go on a ride-along with a police officer to experience a day on the job.
“I try to dispel the notions that everyone can be Abby Sciuto from NCIS or an FBI profiler from the start. You don’t get to be a detective from the start. Police work is about building blocks and problem solving. Those skills are learned in the field, not in the classroom.”
Shawn started as a patrol officer with the Madisonville Police Department in 1994 and worked his way to Detective six years later. In 2003, he accepted a Detective position at the Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office where he created the Narcotics Unit “from scratch”. After nine years, he was promoted to Supervisor over Investigations, and retired as a Sergeant in 2015. Retirement only lasted for eight months before he accepted a position as a Presentence Investigator for Probation and Parole. He gathers facts about defendants from court documents and interviews to create an overview of their lives and experiences. The judge uses his reports to determine sentencing.
The move from policing to corrections has helped Shawn teach Madisonville campus students pursuing a criminal justice degree.
“It gives me insight into a side of law enforcement that I didn’t have prior to this job. I had taught Intro to Corrections prior to this job and felt that I lacked experience to really convey the concepts from the material.”
Shawn says that it’s his commitment to teaching concepts, rather than just facts that makes him unique.
“If you can understand the meaning behind what I am conveying to you I don’t care if you remember what year an event happened or where it took place.”
Shawn’s degrees are in practical application — an A.A.S in Criminal Justice from Hopkinsville Community College and a B.S. in Organizational Leadership in Criminal Justice from Mountain State University — not education. Even though he spent 15 years as a law enforcement instructor and a substitute in the local school system prior to coming to Daymar College, he doesn’t consider himself a conventional teacher bound by formalities.
His non-traditional approach is well-suited to Daymar College because he enjoys the freedom to teach in his unique style that benefits his non-traditional students.
“I tell them the truth about the career. We don’t sugarcoat anything and we have an ‘adult rated’ classroom. Police work is not pretty from the inside looking out, so I want them to know where they are headed and what it will take away from them.”
And sometimes the field not for them. As Shawn says, “It happens a lot in this line of work.” Other graduates from the Daymar College Criminal Justice program have pursued careers in security or legal positions. His proudest moment as a teacher was seeing the first Madisonville campus student graduate with a Criminal Justice Degree, and the most rewarding part is knowing that he helped make that happen.
Shawn teaches a variety of small classes, allowing him to promote thorough understanding of law enforcement concepts. Madisonville campus students in his policing, corrections, private security, and criminology classes, among others, graduate with a solid knowledge of procedures and theory as well as how those classroom lessons relate to the day-to-day job.
“[Daymar College] allows me to apply real world experience to the material in the book,” Shawn said. “I have a story from personal experience for nearly every concept the topics discuss.”