Criminal Justice Students Excel Among Peers in Southeast, Nationwide

Columbus, Ga. – Students in Columbus State’s criminal justice association, Gamma Lambda have become a force to be reckoned with in firearms and physical agility competitions.

weapons trainingFollowing a successful showing against their peers from around the Southeast, the CSU students matched their skills against criminal justice students from around the nation at the March 21-25 American Criminal Justice Association national conference.

Three of the students captured trophies in their age divisions of the physical agility competition: Freddie Connor (second place), Tara Santoro (second place) and Lorrie B. White (third place). The CSU students also are recruiting shooters from local law enforcement, Fort Benning and other colleges and universities for an April 30 firearms competition as a fundraiser for Columbus Crime Stoppers, the Columbus Police Department officers’ Special Olympics campaign and Gamma Lambda. Proceeds from the event at the CPD firing range will be drawn from a $15 entry fee and a raffle drawing for a $900 Heckler & Koch pistol and other prizes.

 Such activity, plus dedication to academics, defines Gamma Lambda members as they prepare for professional success.

Gamma Lambda is CSU’s chapter of the American Criminal Justice Association, Lambda Alpha Epsilon. Prior to CSU hosting the LAE Region 5 conference this fall, some of the CSU chapter members trained with the International Marksmanship Team at Fort Benning.

The training paid off as CSU placed in the top three of seven categories related to firearms and physical agility, including first-place competitors Laquita Williams and Connor in their physical agility divisions. However, Gamma Lambda was not allowed to participate in the academic testing and the crime scene investigation competitions as hosting chapter of the conference, which drew about 100 students from Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina.

This spring, chapter members have been training with the Columbus Police Department as CSU prepares to send 12 students to compete in all of the events at the national conference.

Gamma Lambda faculty advisor Michael Bailey said his students are occupied with more than competitions and awards.

“This organization is focused on the success of our students – significantly in regard to professional networking basis and community involvement,” said Bailey, associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology.

The Gamma Lambda mission statement amplifies Bailey’s comment “… to encourage professionalism, and to foster and promote a greater understanding and cooperation between the public, the academic community and the operational criminal justice agencies.”

In addition to this spring’s firearms competition fundraiser, students in the 40-member chapter have participated in the March of Dimes Walk-a-Thon and have volunteered for other community initiatives including the Sexual Assault Support Center and Georgia Meth Project.

“It is so important within the criminal justice system to involve yourself in networking and community service,” said recent Gamma Lambda president Laurie Smithson. “It can’t just be about academics and internships. You have to earn it.”

Smithson, an assistant mentor coordinator for the Muscogee County Juvenile Drug Court, is pursuing an MPA in justice administration from CSU after earning her bachelor’s degree with honors in criminal justice in December. She also has been selected as CSU’s 2010-2011 criminal justice student of the year.

Current chapter president Lorrie White said networking and community service are imperative for future professional success.

“Gamma Lambda associates with agencies and organizations that are based on upholding laws, and there is quite a bit of prestige involved in this,” said White, a senior criminal justice major from Smiths Station aspiring for law school after graduating.

For more information about CSU’s criminal justice program, including Gamma Lambda, go to http://crj.columbusstate.edu.Team Gamma Lambda