How Working Towards a Master’s Degree in Law Enforcement Changed an Investigator’s Entire Outlook
California Department of Motor Vehicles
Kenneth Ehrman has spent the last 22 years working in law enforcement. He is President of the Association of Motor Vehicle Investigators of California (AMVIC), Vice President of Lodge 77 of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and Unit A Vice President of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA), which represents approximately 6,800 public safety employees employed by the State of California.
Kenneth lives in Ventura, California and works as a Los Angeles Investigator at the Department of Motor Vehicles. He is also in his second semester at the University of San Diego where he is a graduate student in the Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Public Safety program. Once the president of a police union that was anti-management, Kenneth says being in USD’s law enforcement online degree program has changed his entire outlook. So much so, in fact, that he now wants to get into management.
Why did you decide to pursue the Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership degree?
I was attending a Harvard Big 50 conference with law enforcement leaders from all over the world. Someone at the conference told me about the program at USD and that’s what prompted me to look into it. I want to move up in the agency and I know that the education I get at USD will set me apart.
Why did you choose to enroll in the online Master’s degree program at USD?
I have always known what a quality school USD is. When you live in San Diego, you know USD is a big deal – it is very highly regarded.
In terms of curriculum, USD takes a very non-traditional approach. It’s so far ahead of any other criminal justice program I have seen. The instructors in the program are talking about things as they are happening — it’s light years ahead of other programs.
What other schools were you considering?
I was previously enrolled in a program at California State University, Northridge. But I found it hard to get to class because I work for the state, and I never know where I am going to be from week to week. The traditional on-campus format was not going to work. I also felt that the curriculum was not really what I was looking for.
What do you like best about USD’s Master’s degree in Law Enforcement Leadership so far? Is there anything you would change?
My peer group of other students in the program is really amazing. I get to interact with other law enforcement professionals from all around the country. I find their variety of experience to be amazing. You could probably find an expert in every area of criminal justice just within my little cohort.
The professors have so much knowledge it is astounding. And the turnaround time for getting feedback on assignments is incredibly fast.
How have you handled balancing graduate school with your full-time job?
You have to get into a rhythm and then stick with it. It’s not one of those programs where you wait till Sunday to start on your work. But the pace and format of the classes allow you to stay on top of things. I work full-time, I have a family, I run two foundations and I still feel that I have time to do my coursework.
What skills do you think you will gain from this program and how will those skills help you in the field?
Many of the tasks the professors assign ask you to put yourself in the place of your manager or the head of your department and then apply what you have learned to create a new policy specific to your agency. The assignments and work encourage you to think as a manager. I had never really thought about it before, but now it’s kind of neat to think I could create policy and do things that make an impact on my department or agency.
I can’t imagine not being in this program – it has changed the whole trajectory of my career. I used to be anti-management, but now I have changed my whole point of view. Now I actually want to go into management!
How do you feel about the online component?
This is my fifth attempt at graduate school. I always knew I was going to get my master’s degree, but the traditional route just didn’t work with my life. I wish this online degree format would have been around 15 years ago. I would be getting my Ph.D. by now!
Do you think education is important for those in law enforcement?
I think education is important for any profession, but it’s vital for the future success of law enforcement across America. Today’s law enforcement officers make split second decisions based on minimal information that will have life or death consequences. Within this continuum, officers revert back to their training and experience as the basis of their decision making process. I believe that the benefits of formal education, especially at the graduate level, provides us with increased cognitive skills to process information and make an informed decision.
In addition to use of force issues, on a daily basis, we as law enforcement professionals make hundreds of discretionary decisions on a myriad of topics. Since starting the program in September, I have noticed that subject matter from my course work has come up in various formats at work and I have been more than prepared to articulate my thoughts on them. I feel that I have already benefited from the unique format of this program and will continue to reap the rewards throughout my career in law enforcement and public safety labor.
What advice would you give to someone in criminal justice who is considering a Master’s degree?
If you are on the fence about USD’s law enforcement leadership online master’s degree program, take one class and you will see it is for you. I would encourage you to try the program. It is perfectly aligned with what we all do everyday, the way we think and where we need to be in the future.
The University of San Diego accepts students on a rolling basis in the Fall, Spring and Summer for admission into the 100% online M.S. in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership degree program. If you are interested in becoming a law enforcement leader or advancing your career in public safety, consider speaking with a USD admissions advisor to learn more.