Numerous graduates of Western Carolina University’s Criminology and Criminal Justice Department have gone on to have successful careers in the fields of law enforcement, investigations, corrections, security, education, forensic science, and law and court systems.
Many of those same graduates took the invaluable opportunity to gain experience as an intern in various agencies in the criminal justice system.
According to the department’s website, an internship in the criminal justice system is a chance for students to both learn about their chosen field and to clarify their plans for the future. Also, it is a time for students to learn something about themselves.
Students are placed in state, federal and local agencies, as well as in public ally-funded counseling and consulting firms, depending on the career path in which they are interested.
Lieutenant Scott Buttery of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is the primary contact for many students at both WCU and Southwestern Community College who want to intern at the Sheriff’s Office.
Prior to acceptance as an intern at the Office of the Sheriff, students must undergo a thorough background check and have an interview with Buttery.
During the interview, students will decide on what side of the Sheriff’s Office they want to experience: administration, patrol or detention.
“If they want the administrative side, students will work with administrators, something like what I do,” said Buttery, who is a training coordinator but also a badge-wearing patrol officer, too.
The Sheriff’s Office has three civilian employees that work on grant writing, timesheets and basic every day running of the office. Buttery coordinates training but is an instructor as well. Also in-house are FTO’s, or field training officers. FTO’s work with students from the ground up and are their primary contacts during their internship.
Buttery compares the administrative side of the Sheriff’s Office to a business.
“People think from shows like ‘Cops’ that we are all officers just working the road and wearing the uniforms. However, we have guys that have to be good with things like math and business, too. Even though the Sheriff’s Office isn’t a moneymaking business, we still have to run it like a business,” said Buttery.
For students who are more interested in the patrol side of the Sheriff’s Office, they are outfitted in body armor for patrol rides, work closely with field training officers and have a set schedule for riding time, whether that is night or day patrol. Students must also keep a log of the hours that they ride on patrol.
“Students who work the patrol aspect are assigned to one patrol officer, but there is an alternate officer that the student can ride with if there is a scheduling conflict,” said Buttery.
Interns will ride along to drug busts, routine stops and anything else a normal patrol officer would encounter, except for undercover work.
“We let them see as much as we can let them see. Interns sign disclosure forms, and therefore, they are not allowed to go around talking about what they see on patrol. There is a professional etiquette that they have to respect, and we have never had one violate that,” stated Buttery.
Finally, students can choose to work in the jail with detention officers caring for incarcerated inmates. Interns will learn things like what hours inmates are out of the cell, keeping track of nutrition needs for inmates, working with medical staff to hand out medications and every day running of the jail.
“Working detention is like taking care of the elderly; they need to be kept safe until they go to sentencing, and then they are in the hands of the department of corrections,” said Buttery.
The Sheriff’s Office holds inmates that are serving sentences of 100 days or less or for pre-trial confinement.
Buttery stated that the Sheriff’s Office currently has three interns from SCC and had four from WCU last semester.
For more information on internships, contact Fredrick Hawley, WCU’s director of internships in the department of criminal justice at firstname.lastname@example.org or Buttery at email@example.com.