Efforts to prepare University of Central Missouri criminal justice majors for professional careers in the field are getting a financial boost.

With help from a $3,200 NRA Foundation Grant, the UCM School of Public Services will expand students’ knowledge and experience related to firearms needed for law enforcement training purposes.

Representatives of the school’s nationally recognized criminal justice and criminology program worked with the university’s Office of Sponsored Research to apply for the grant. Students who come from Missouri and many other states will soon have an opportunity to benefit from resources these funds make possible.

“We’re very grateful that people are investing in UCM for UCM students,” said Gregg Etter, professor of criminal justice. “Their investment helps advance our students’ ability to learn."

He pointed out that many of the students who graduate from the university’s criminal justice program will enter the profession working as police officers, and they must be well versed in the use of firearms. While at UCM, many criminal justice students get experience by serving on a firearms team that continues to succeed in regional and national competitions. Such opportunities demonstrate student proficiency, and ultimately help students in the job market, Etter said.

“The sport of shooting provides students with a variety of employable skills, the most important being range and gun safety,” noted Lynn Urban, chair of the School of Public Services.  “This grant furnishes the team with new equipment to ensure they are performing at their best and safest."

She added, “Students interested in law enforcement need hands-on experience with firearms to understand the magnitude of the responsibility.  Our range master, Richard Gillespie, demands adherence to the safety protocol and our team always receives high praise for its range discipline."

With Etter serving as team advisor, the university’s Lambda Alpha Epsilon- Gamma Epsilon Delta (LAE-GED) chapter will seek its 18th consecutive victory overall at the American Criminal Justice Association’s (ACJA) National Competition March 22-27 in Kansas City. Including a category for firearms, the competitive experience also challenges students in events that include academic exams on criminal law, policing, juvenile justice, corrections and LAE knowledge, and additional categories related to crime scene investigation, LAE academic posters, and physical agility.

UCM won its 18th consecutive regional Sweepstakes Trophy in the ACJA LAE regional contest in October, 2019. Contributing to this win were numerous individual and team awards for firearms in the upper, lower, and professional divisions.

UCM’s Criminal Justice and Criminology program is located in the Harmon College of Business and Professional Studies. Consistently ranked among the top program in the nation, it offers both bachelor’s and master’s degree opportunities with instruction provided by a worldclass faculty in both online and traditional classroom formats. Learn more at ucmo.edu/cj.