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Law and Order

Armed with master’s degrees, alumni police chiefs develop skills and strategies to navigate law enforcement’s evolving challenges

illustration of police officers

Leading a police force has never been easy, but it’s become even more difficult given recent police shootings and charges of excessive force.

Programs such as UTA’s Master of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice offer networking opportunities, insight into the latest research, and comprehensive management training that prepare law enforcement professionals to lead a force through challenging times.

“Policing is still about working with people, about caring for your community, about keeping people safe.”

“Working toward a master’s degree really helps you in thinking strategically about your field with long-range planning and vision,” says McKinney police Chief Greg Conley, who earned his master’s in 1996 and was tapped to lead the McKinney Police in March.

A few months later, Chief Conley worked to rebuild community ties after an officer’s aggressive response to a pool party was captured on video and went viral. The officer has since resigned.

“While times have changed, policing is still about working with people, about caring for your community, about keeping people safe,” he says. “These are the same human values and expectations we all share.”

Chief Rhonda Robertson joined the Fort Worth Police Department in 1985 and rose through the ranks to serve as assistant chief. In January, she was appointed interim chief of police and served in that post through September. She says earning her master’s degree at UTA was not only a key to advancing her career, but also an engaging way to network with and learn from classmates and fellow law enforcement professionals.

“I found that there was an interest in talking about current events and current challenges as well as where we came from and some of the old theories, strategies and tactics that have been used to help us learn from past experiences and mistakes so we don’t make them again,” Chief Robertson says. She was in the first graduating class of students earning a Master of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice in a cohort program offered at UTA’s Fort Worth Center.

“Anyone who is interested in advancing in their law enforcement career needs to have a master’s degree, in my opinion,” she says. “It’s a great program that’s helping us to professionalize law enforcement.”

Illustration by Shaw Nielsen


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