Becoming a Law Enforcement Professional
Before she arrived at Seattle University, Laura Polson did a wide search for just the right graduate program in criminal justice. Too many of them, she says, focus on public administration and policy.
“I looked for really diverse classes and a program that wasn’t so policy oriented,” she says. “And I wanted connections to the community that were obvious from the get-go because those were key to getting the right job.”
As an SU graduate student, she signed on for every practicum to see what suited her best: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) or Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). She also interned for the ATF as well as the U.S. Marshals Service. “The opportunities are there for just about anything you want in law enforcement,” she says.
In 2010, she landed her dream job as a deputy U.S. marshal with the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Based at the federal courthouse in Tacoma’s remodeled, 100-year-old Union Station, Polson is pumped about every aspect of her work. She hasn’t yet had reason to draw her gun or play a role in extraditions of any notorious criminals, although she has traveled as far as Florida to return a fugitive to the Northwest.
As early as her graduate student internship, she discovered she liked working with inmates and the courts.
“I get to see the whole judicial process close up and in motion,” she says. “Plus, every day I kind of don’t know what my work will be. I bounce from one thing to another. I might be doing transports or bookings of new prisoners or serving subpoenas or taking an inmate for medical care.”It’s a big leap for the 2004 Eastern Washington University anthropology graduate whose previous work experience involved sitting at a desk doing data entry.
She’s pleased to have found the right niche.
“I’m never at my desk and I love that. I don’t have to write warrants or do paperwork, just go out and get the bad guys,” she says.
Deputy Polson is continuing to develop her leadership abilities by creating a practicum to challenge and support SU’s graduate and undergraduate criminal justice students. She plans to cover the courts, witness security, judicial security, asset forfeiture, warrants, a tour of the courthouse and perhaps even a meeting with a judge as part of the two-day practicum on the U.S. Marshals Service, which hasn’t been represented until her efforts.
Based on her experience so far, her career goal is an intriguing one. “I think it would be really interesting to investigate threats against the courts and judges,” she says. “If I made a career of doing judicial security, I’d be very happy.”