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A Revamped Criminal Justice Program to Include Public Safety

Mercer University in Georgia has announced the introduction of a bachelor's program in public safety that has taken the curriculum from their criminal justice degree and modified it to meet today's needs.

Program coordinator Lynn Tankersley said that the new major is the result both of requests from professionals in the public safety profession and of job trends that have developed over the past eight years. "At many public safety departments a college degree is either recommended or required for promotion," she said. It is also a critical role of the Department of Homeland Security to share information with local law enforcement officials; they have established a network of state and local fusion centers to do just that. Degrees like the new Mercer offering will

Mercer has campuses in Macon, Atlanta and two other Georgia locations. The new public safety degree program will be offered through online courses and evening classes. There are currently 130 students enrolled and thirty to forty percent of them are already working in the public safety field.

The criminal justice degree at Mercer is focused on corrections, the courts and law enforcement. The public safety degree adds in course work on cyber security, forensics, terrorism, leadership and multi-cultural issues. Regional online newspaper Macon.com reports that local sheriff and police officials have applauded the program, stating that this allows their officers to move from seminar programs about homeland security into a more formal education program.

Many schools are now offering public safety administration degrees but the entry level educational choices in Homeland Security often do not include the police science elements of the new Mercer University program. From the other side of the equation, criminal justice degrees often do not address the types of issues that Transportation Safety Administration officials or Border Patrol agents encounter. This hybrid approach is a positive example of the accredited college degrees that have developed in recent years; some as the result of a realigned economy and some due to the requirements for public safety and preparedness that were forever altered on 9/11.

The federal Department of Homeland Security is now in charge of six federal law enforcement agencies; for virtually all of them a homeland security degree meets entry level qualifications. The hybrid Mercer University approach should be a welcome addition and a boon to professionals interested in a Homeland Security career.

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