Crime House Event Gives Students Hands-on Look at Law Enforcement Investigation
by Anna Herl
Students were able to attend a mock search warrant event at Concordia’s crime scene house in Seward which gave them an opportunity to connect in-class concepts to a real-life example.
The exercise featured law enforcement using probable cause – the suspected distribution of illegal drugs – to search a residence. The search warrant used did not require law enforcement to knock before entering the residence.
The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, the Seward County Sheriff’s Office, and the Seward City Police Department were involved, as well as a few students who acted as the residents.
This event was organized by Dan Zieg, an adjunct professor at Concordia who is also chief deputy county attorney for the Civil Division in Lancaster County.
“I firmly believe in the value of students getting real world experiences,” Zieg said. “I believe seeing how concepts play out in reality is something that is often overlooked.”
Before the event, Zieg said that he hoped students taking his Special Topics in Criminal Justice course, Drugs, Society, and the Criminal Justice System, would see how what they are learning fits into the real world.
“I think seeing this will help students to connect a lot of dots about what they have been learning for years,” Zieg said.
Faith Riggle, a criminal justice major at Concordia who attended the event, said that the mock operation was informative, and she appreciated the explanations given by the Lancaster County deputies.
“I really enjoyed how the materials that we are learning in all of our C.J. classes were being put into action,” Riggle said.
Seward Chief of Police Brian Peters said the mock operation gave students context for what they were being taught in class.
“We felt it was a good opportunity to show and talk about search warrants,” Peters said. “It gives context to what we’ve been discussing in class, and we felt we could still demonstrate enough to show everybody the steps we take and maybe areas we would concentrate on, depending on what warrant it is.”
Sgt. Jason Mayo said that he wants students to have a better understanding of the thought process of law enforcement while in the process of serving a search warrant:
“To have a better idea and better understanding of what law enforcement has to think about before they service a search warrant and what they have to think about during the service of that warrant and the safety issues and things like that to keep the people who are serving the warrant safe and the public around there safe,” Mayo said.
Investigator Jarod Brabec said that the crime house is great to have because of its teaching environment.
“It’s nice to have a house like this where we can teach students who are interested in a law enforcement career,” he said. “It was static, and we could go slow and explain things very well, so that was nice.”
Dr. Edward Hoffman, an associate professor of criminal justice at Concordia, said that mock raids give students realistic experience.
“This event gives students real-life experiences within a controlled setting,” Hoffman said.
Kyle Hoffman, a junior, said he connected with the stories from officers of the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.
“The biggest thing for me was getting to hear their personal experiences, which really helped me derive an emotional connection to what was going on instead of just taking it objectively,” Hoffman said.
Laura Hellwege, a student who roleplayed as a resident, found the mock operation to be interesting and said it “humanizes the process.”
“I know nothing about what happens in law enforcement,” Hellwege explained. “I feel like this humanized the process because you see what happens in the movies and shows, but this makes it more real.”
Peters was glad to see the student response he did. “From what I can tell, everybody enjoyed it and got a lot out of it,” he said.
Cade Pflughoeft, a criminal justice major, was glad to hear about the experiences of the Lancaster County deputies.
“I was glad to be able to get these guys on campus to share their vast knowledge and experience,” Pfughoeft said. “I believe that events like these are important, since it helps put what we learn in the classroom into hands-on experience.”
Senior Korrell Koehlmoos said it was nice to learn about arrest and warrant processes.
“It was cool to learn about the arrest and warrant parts and get a feel on how it would go,” Koehlmoos said, “I learned how they go about the daily business and how their department got all started.”
Junior Brandon Gonzalez said that the search warrant event was a great experience.
“The search warrant event at the crime house that was conducted was an amazing experience, very well explained, very well executed, and overall gave me a sense of how professional and elaborate our law enforcement really is,” Gonzalez said. “What stuck with me was how well planned a search warrant can be from the time a judge issues it to how police tactically handle it.”