Courtney Percival – CCJ Careers: Crime Analyst
Listen as Courtney Percival, CCJO Graduate, discusses her responsibilities and answers questions about her position as a crime analyst.
Tom: Good evening, everyone! Again, this is Tom Hodge, Enrollment Advisor for the Criminology and Criminal Justice Program. I just want to again thank you for joining us tonight, and to let you know that we will be starting our presentation here in just a moment.
Again, there is a Question & Answer screen to the right of the main view screen. We will be able to ask questions and we’ll answer those all at the end of the night, but we do encourage you to answer them or ask them as they come to your mind because we does move kind of quick towards the end. And so, as you think of questions throughout the presentation, feel free to type those in all and we’ll get them all at the end.
Tonight, we have the pleasure of speaking with Courtney Percival. She is a crime analyst. She’s going to share her thoughts on the industry itself and also again, answer questions here at the end of the presentation for you.
To go over our agenda, the first thing that we’ll do is we’ll do an introduction of myself and the guest here. She’ll be covering what it’s like to be a crime analyst, a skilled needed in the field, career outlook, as well as her experiences with the program, and then again, we’ll answer all of your questions at the end.
For those of you who don’t know me, again, my name is Tom Hodge. I’m the Advisor for the Criminology and Criminal Justice Program. I’ve been working with Portland State University since 2006, since we started our program. I’ve also been working in Education for Action in almost two decades now. This is definitely my passion. I enjoy working with students and I think you’ll find all our staff has that same passion. If ever you have questions, feel free to give us a call. We’re always available to help you out, but I won’t speak and spend too much time speaking. I mean, I want to introduce our speaker who’s going to be sharing her knowledge in her field, so I’d like to welcome Courtney Percival.
Courtney: Thank you. It’s nice to be here and be participating in this webinar.
Tom: Great! I want to share some of her background. Courtney is a crime analyst with the Sunnyside Police Department and she’s been working there since July of 2011. She’s also worked for the Yakima Police Department in Washington State. As an analyst, she specializes in gaining intelligence, analyses, frequently assists with violent crime, human trafficking, drugs and fugitive investigations. In addition, she also provides support as an evidence technician.
Courtney, when you’re not working, you enjoy living in the country and compete in equestrian competitions throughout the year?
Courtney: Yeah, when I have time. Well, life is pretty demanding, but yeah, it’s a pretty nice weather out here where I am in Washington State. On the eastern side, Yakima and Sunnyside, they’re on the eastern side of the state, so it’s not like Seattle where it’s really rainy. We’re kind of more of a desert climate.
Tom: As you can see here on our next slide, Courtney has a tremendous education background. She graduated from Portland State University in 2011 with her bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice, also a minor in biology, Certificate in Advanced Crime Analysis and a Certificate in the American Justice System. She later went on to Michigan State University in 2014 and did her master’s degree in law enforcement intelligence and analysis.
She also did a graduate certificate in Homeland Security and is also, a Certified Law Enforcement Analyst with the ICA. As you can see here, there are only 54[ph] of those recognized in the world, so it’s a tremendous honor. Before I jump into the questions here Courtney, do you have anything else in your bio that you wanted to add?
Courtney: No. I think that about covers it. Thank you for the introduction.
Tom: Oh, my pleasure. I want to start off with our first segue of questions here on what it’s like to be crime analyst. As an advisor for the program, my job is to only communicate what the program is going to be like, what’s students are going to be learning. So I really like to share experts in the field like yourself to be able to ride them with and understanding what the position is actually like, because you’re actually doing it in the field. Can you kind of go over briefly what a typical day is like in your current position?
Courtney: Right. A typical day pretty much starts out arriving in the morning and there’s going to be a briefing with the sergeants and commander and occasionally, the chief. We’re going to go over recent events that happened the night before or if it’s a Monday over the weekend, go over those kind of significant events. And then also, discuss ongoing projects in the department. I will talk about sort of my plans for the week and what I’d like to get accomplished and different analysis projects that I’m currently working on. Kind of from there, it really varies. Each day is typically pretty different. At any point throughout the day, I will receive requests for information from the field, from patrol officers, from detectives, and a lot of times, other agencies as well.
These requests for information, they’re a lot of times in the form of tactical analysis, so information that they can apply to whatever they’re working on to help them complete their project. If that is needing information where to locate somebody, that would be providing address histories, or vehicles, something along those lines. A lot of times, I find myself providing investigative support for the detective’s unit doing kind of those things.
I’m also kind of the support and the evidence technician here at this department, and so, I also work a lot in evidence, and kind of what that involves is preparing items to send to the crime lab in taking evidence. Also, looking at the different timetables as to when evidence can be purged, and what needs to be retained. So each day is truly different and that’s kind of part of what I really love about this job.
Tom: Great! Thank you so much for that. I do think, a couple of people might be having some technical issues, so if any of you who are not hearing Courtney, please add that question to the chat box so that I can know that, I can see what to do to get that turned on for you. If any of you again are having problems hearing Courtney, please let us know.
Okay. The second question I think a lot of students would like to know, a lot of times, people — they know what the job is but they don’t know whether or not they’re going to enjoy it or whether it’s going to be rewarding. What do you find rewarding? What do you find that you like most about being a crime analyst?
Courtney: Well, what I love about being a crime analyst is it is a variable work environment. Each day is different and there’s not a whole lot of monotony in my position, and so, that’s what really kind of gets me going everyday as I know that I’m going to be coming to a new environment and finishing a project from a previous time but I know I’ll have something new to work on.
Another thing that I love about this job is it’s very satisfying, providing a service to the community and being involved in providing justice to victims of crime. Some of my more satisfying experiences in life really have been from this job and being able to provide a sense of closure to people in a way that I’m not the lead detective on the case but I work with a detective on the case and to help kind of bring that will of justice to a full circle.
Tom: That’s great! People don’t realize that it’s a team effort, right? It’s not one person goes on and then save the day like it is in the movies. Really, it takes a collaboration of your colleagues in order to apprehend and bring that person the justice.
Courtney: Right. Yeah, there are a lot of people involved in the whole process.
Tom: The third question I’d like to ask in this section is, what are some of the challenges that you face in the crime analysis? What are some of the things that you find that time, it can make the job somewhat difficult?
Courtney: Well, it can be overwhelming, just the amount of work there can be involved in it. There never seems to be enough time in the day or week to get everything that you want to accomplish done. Just when you finish one project, then another major one will hit your desk, and so, that’s kind a challenge to work through and then, just working in a sort of a data analysis field. It can be pretty frustrating working with the data because it’s not perfect all the time. You have a lot of data in law enforcement that is subject to human error, and so, going through and getting those errors fixed before you could actually process it for analysis that can be frustrating as well. Then, just kind of crime analysis in a department, it’s a priority but there are a lot of priorities in a police department. You’ve got equipment to consider, vehicles and it all costs quite a bit, and it really adds up. So sometimes, getting this funding for a new technology can sort of take the back seat. You could say sometimes, just because there are a lot of other priorities in the department, and so, sometimes, you have to fight your way through that as well.
Tom: Yeah, I can imagine especially, you’re hearing more and more about budget issues and things like that. Do you find that plays a role into it sometimes?
Courtney: Yeah. A lot of it is budget. Having to do less or do more with less. That is kind of a mentality that a lot of departments are having to adapt, and there are certain things that you can absolutely not cut. You can’t cut any corners with safety equipment or vehicles. There are certain absolutes but there are no cutting corners, and so, as far as technology and the analysis side of it, if you’re able to complete your projects using free or already installed equipment, then that’s going to be the go-to first before investing in newer technology.
Tom: Great! Another question in this section, what are the sorts of different technology and systems that you use? What are some of the things that you use as a crime analyst? What are some of the devices and software equipment that you use in doing your day-to-day operations?
Courtney: Well, day-to-day, all police departments will have some type of records management system, and so, there are a bunch of different vendors out there, and so, primarily, they’re a bit pretty large as well as far as the amount of data that they can handle. Then, from there, using the Microsoft Office Suite Excel, Access, all those tools, and there are even projects that I’ve done in Outlook in the email program, and then, other kind of crime mapping programs, Esri ArcGIS, that’s a program that I frequently use. Then kind of on the intelligence side of things, you have to use sort of a lot of open source information and close source information out there on the internet and throughout their law enforcement systems and databases.
Tom: Great! Thank you for that. Next section we want to cover are what are some of the skills that are needed to be a crime analyst? I know, in every job, there are skills that are mandatory, you have to have them and then there are skills that you said that you can learn. But what do you find that are some of those skills that are most important in order to be a good crime analyst with a successful career?
Courtney: You absolutely have to be detail-oriented. There’s no way around that. I mean, you’ve really got to not only be detail-oriented but care about those details and find meaning to them and just have them really drive your operations, those details. A lot of times in investigation, those details will be the difference between solving a crime or not. On the intelligence side, those small details could actually be really significant down the road. So, kind of keeping those in the front of your mind is really important.
Tom: And imagine that you know details and they come back to play not only in the arrest of a — as well, if there’s a trial or a court case. Those details have to be presented then, right?
Courtney: Right, absolutely. Being able to articulate those details as well is really important in a way that makes sense to everyone because sometimes, cases that you come across are very complex, and so, being able to kind of hone in on those details and also articulate them and a report is really important.
Tom: Great! Obviously, you mentioned to be in great detail. What are some of the other skill sets that are beneficial? Maybe not the crucial one like being detail-oriented, what are some others that are going to be beneficial for individuals to have if they want to work in this field?
Courtney: I would say being generally organized. If you look at my desk right now, they probably wouldn’t look organized but in my mind it is because I know where everything is, and so, being organized is really important. That way, you can recall on all of that information that you’ll need. And then, just having very strong computer skills, this is a very technical job at times. So having a good set of computer skills that you can troubleshoot different programs and be kind of self-taught in certain ways is really helpful. Kind of having any knowledge of the crime and being many sort of geospatial software is really valuable. It’s not totally required but it is very helpful. And then just as a general in law enforcement type of job, just having a sense of humor really goes a long way and just in your work environment and working with your colleagues. Those are some of the things that I find really important in my day-to-day.
Tom: Great! I find that in speaking with people working [inaudible], a natural inquisitiveness, a natural kind of thinking two or three steps ahead. Do you find that that is a skill set that’s needed for this particular field?
Courtney: Yes. Being inquisitive, definitely, me kind of wanting to know what’s beyond a certain — I don’t know what they say, kind of taking a second look I guess, of things and what you see is maybe not what you get all the time and just having an open mind and kind of seeing things through and through and not making any assumptions either.
Tom: Good. The third question, are there skills needed prior to working in the field, those types of skills, can they be learned on the job because I know with some careers, especially, being really simple explanation like an artist, either in artistry or not. You can’t learn to draw sketches and paint by numbers and things like that but you either are an artistry on not, do you find that there are skill sets like that in this particular field?
Courtney: Yeah. You definitely have to be comfortable working on a computer and know your way around at least Microsoft Office and also be familiar with basic data analysis. Those are skills that you would really need just to get into the field. Other things can definitely be learned on the job. You know Microsoft Access, that was not a program that I was really too familiar with when I stared, but it became something that I absolutely needed to become familiar with in order to be successful as an analyst and just general database administration, how they’re structured sort of the front end and then also the back end of a database. Those are things that you can learn on the job but they would be helpful kind of going into the profession. A lot of times, in the job announcements that I’ve seen for analyst jobs, some — at least a two-year degree is required but most do require at least a four-year degree, and jobs with the federal government definitely require a four-year degree.
Tom: Great! I have a question, in this section would be, what skill sets have been the hardest for you to learn? I know you’ve been successful in what you do and you have a tremendous educational background but, what are some of the things that were hard for you to learn?
Courtney: Well, definitely the computer kind of programming language, search sequel writing and also pipeline[ph] scripts. That kind of goes with the Microsoft Access a little bit, just learning the different programming languages to help extract data out of a database more efficiently, or into a web-based platform.
Tom: Great! So, in the next section, this is probably the most commonly asked question from students is career outlooks. If we all had crystal balls, you probably wouldn’t be here tonight. We all have won the lottery tickets, right? But if you can look into your crystal ball and look out into the future and see what the job market is going to be like, that will be I think very helpful for students. You kind of start with, when you first started work in the field, what was the career like in general at that time?
Courtney: I entered in 2011 and it was a growing field then. It’s been growing for many years, and one thing is that police departments, they’re always looking for ways to be proactive and also ways to make their processes more efficient. And so, analyst really helps fill that need of departments, and so when I entered, it was a growing field and I see that it’s still growing and there are many announcements all over the country for analyst positions.
Tom: Great! How was the career outlook changed since then, from then until now?
Courtney: It seems that there’s still a demand and there’s still a need, if not, maybe more so. I mean, I feel like when I entered, there was a pretty large demand and I still feel there’s a pretty large demand. There are still agencies out there that don’t have crime analysts and so, they might not have the analysts but in some ways all departments use crime analysis so I think that it will continue to grow and that small agencies will also start to have crime analysts in their departments. I don’t see that changing really anytime soon.
Tom: To kind of piggyback on that again, no one can see the future, but in your opinion, where do you see it in five to ten years? Do you think it will continue to grow at this pace or do you think there’s — I see all these new technologies being brought in and being added to your — law enforcement and the agencies have to work with. Where do you think that will be incorporated, what do you see in the field in five to ten years?
Courtney: Well, I see that it’s still growing, and I think it will still be growing five to ten years from now. One thing is that technology can really only go so far, the human element will always be needed. There’s a saying that says, “Analysis doesn’t necessarily replace an analyst.” And so, I still think that 15 even years down the road, there will still be a place and a need for crime analyst.
Tom: Especially, you know, I talk with students and the other people who are working in field; definitely the human element that you speak of is very prevalent. There are just jobs that are just as far as I can tell, will never be replaced by adrenaline or like a camera on the corner. There’s always going to be a need for human to analyze and act on that data, but it’s kind of what you’re going with that?
Courtney: Yes, absolutely.
Tom: Great! It’s the last question in this section, and how the use of crime analysis evolve since you started working in the field, have you seen some changes from when you first started in 2011 until now, and is it more openly received or used?
Courtney: Well, what I’ve seen is just a push for a data-driven policing all around. So, it’s definitely being used. It’s being used in a variety of ways. It’s being used in reference to crime, but it’s also being used internally in internal operations as far as staffing, and there are so many different ways a crime analyst could be used that it really is just growing into a data-driven policing mentality all around. What I’ve seen is that police chief around the country are really recognizing how valuable analysis is to their department and really embrace it.
Tom: That’s great. Well, I was speaking with Courtney earlier and I was at the Chiefs of Police Conference in Orlando, Florida this past year, and the most heavily attended course seminars were the crime analysis ones.
Courtney: Yeah. That’s the way it is for our records management system as well when they have an annual conference and their crime analysis track is always booked up and people are in waiting lists to get into these classes. Another thing about the evolution of crime analysis, a lot of times, the grants require a piece of analysis to obtain funding and also to maintain the funding. Also, a crime analyst and crime analysis is required for the CALEA certification which is a national police department certification process.
Tom: Basically, in a nutshell, if you can’t prove that you need the funding, it’s probably not going to —
Tom: Got you. That makes a great point, and a lot of times you don’t think of that side of crime analysis but obviously, it’s playing a role in your agency as well.
Tom: So in this section, I like you to kind of give some feedback to what your experiences were like in CCJO Crime Analysis Program. I can monitor classes and I see students progress, but I’m not a student. So, can you kind of think back to when you’re in classes and think about what courses that you took in the Advanced Crime Analysis Program that really helped you at your current position?
Courtney: The Crime Analysis class by far helped me get into this position just getting the familiarity with Excel, and I’ve taken statistics courses in college that really getting that familiarity with Excel was critical to my learning in this job. Also, the Crime Mapping class, getting familiar with the software was really tremendous. It gave me a tremendous amount of confidence coming into this job that I knew I had the tools that I needed in order to be successful. Another class was I think it was that Crime and Fear class, learning the different sub-type principles. That’s the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. That was something that in the department that I work in, that only a few people were knowledgeable about and had attended a training in that. So, to have that knowledge, it just really made me feel that that program kind of gave me information to help me be successful in my job and I could be confident kind of going into that.
Tom: That’s a great feedback. I know Dr. Henning would be pleased to know that his developed training is being used. Go ahead, I’m sorry.
Courtney: I was just going to say, going into the program, I really was not familiar at all with crime analysis. I was in the Criminal Justice Criminology Program and I saw the certificates as a way to — I needed electives anyway and so, I could obtain this certificate through the process and so, I decide to do that. Then after I took the Crime Analysis course, I was really interested in it and I really like working with Excel. I like the technical piece of it, so it really kind of made me excited about getting into the field and learning more about it was that class.
Tom: That’s good to hear. I mean, I think that’s a good note for students to keep in mind that throughout the program in taking courses, you’re going to have to take some core courses that are required, but some of those can open doors or even closed doors for that matter, and you may find something that you really enjoy or find something that you thought you want to get into, and it’s not what you would thought it was. I think that’s the benefit of going with education is really focusing what it is that you want to do.
All right! Second question, this one is — I talk to students all the time and I know all students always have fears and obstacles before coming, starting a program. What are some of the fears and obstacles that you faced before starting going to school?
Courtney: Well, I started as an on campus student actually at Portland State and then I switched to the online program. I was really concerned about sort of just my future employment. It’s a kind of common concern I think with a lot of students that are in college that, once I graduate, am I going to be employable in this field? And so, that was definitely a concern of mine going into the program and also — to go with that is the student loan portion of it, and here, I’m going to spend all these money in a degree, for a field that I might not necessarily have a job. And so, those were definitely major concerns of mine going into the program.
Tom: Yeah, student loan is definitely a common concern they have, and I took them up too as well, and I think it’s a personal decision I want have to make, but in my opinion, you kind of look at it as investing in yourself, but is that the way that you looked at it?
Courtney: Well, and also now, there’s the Public Service Loan Forgiveness which crime analyst jobs do fall under so, yeah, you just have to sometimes take that risk and invest in yourself and just work hard.
Tom: Yeah, that’s the keyword. Working hard, you’re right.
Courtney: Yeah. It’s not going to be easy. I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it for somebody who isn’t committed to it all the way, but yeah, also at the time, I was an Oregon State resident and there is an Oregon opportunity grant that I was eligible for and I figured that was the Public Service Loan Forgiveness after a while that it would work out.
Tom: That’s great. It obviously has paid off.
Tom: What are some tips that you can give to future online learners? Online learning has been around for a while now. We’ve had over 500 student graduate just the CCJO program since we’ve started in 2006, but I always like for the previous students to kind of give some tips, what’s different from online courses versus campus? What are some of the things that they need to focus on?
Courtney: Well, I’m really a big fan of online learning. I think it’s been adaptable to my learning style and I like the flexibility as being able to log in from anywhere and be able to do my assignments. Kind of I guess the tips that I would give particularly for this program is when you’re going through it to be really creative, in the topics that you decided to do your assignments on and explore topics that might not necessarily be the in the list that you’re given, obviously get approval, but just explore things that are really interesting to you and maybe off the beaten path for your assignments. When I was in the program, I treated my Crime Analysis courses and all the products that I made in there, I treated them like work projects.
What I did is I created a portfolio of these assignments. So, when going into the interview, I was able to write something that I could demonstrate what I’ve learned in this program and what I’m able to do. So, I would recommend that to anybody in this program to really keep those assignments, hang on to them, that way, when you go into your interview, you can show and demonstrate that you have done analysis before.
Tom: Great. Practical observations. Degrees are great and a lot of times necessary in the interview, but if you can’t demonstrate the practical application of what you’ve learned, sometimes that doesn’t result in the curve you want. So I think that’s a great advice too, any future students or current students for that matter as well.
What would you say that you like most about the program? What was the kind of your “Aha” moment about the program as far as your enjoyment of it?
Courtney: I really just like the flexibility. I like the length of time that the courses and the school itself. Having lived in Portland and also attended classes on campus, I really respected the faculty and the teachers that were there. I mean it’s a good school. So, with that and also the faculty, really qualified people are teaching the classes and have a real passion for it. So, all those things made me really enjoy the program.
Tom: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. I travel a lot doing seminars and doing conferences and you’d be surprised, I go all over United States and people heard of this program, it’s one of the largest universities in Oregon and we have a full-time faculty. These aren’t part-time instructors that — I think that passion really shows through, the kind of what your experience was with the instructors.
Courtney: Yeah, it really does show through them. They have a lot of experience and you don’t feel like it’s out there just kind of wedging through it that they’re really are passionate about it. A lot of them teach on-campus classes and are engaged on campus as well. So, it’s really nice to see people that are passionate about their job and like to teach.
Tom: Absolutely. I don’t want to spend too much time talking on the Crime Analysis. We want to get to the Question & Answers too. But, these are all the classes listed here that are in our program. So for those who haven’t seen this, on the left-hand side, there are different links that you can click on and go to it. One is a link to our website. You have applications on there to apply the program. Then, you also have the ability to schedule an appointment. So, whether you’re watching this live with us now or you replay it at a later date, all those links will work. So if you ever do want to get more information, you can schedule a time to speak to an adviser, we’ll be happy to answer your questions.
That being said, we’re going to go into the question and answer session and quite a few of you have already been coming in and adding questions, so I really appreciate that because that’s really what we’re here for. If you haven’t entered your questions, now would be a very good time to do that. Again, at the right-hand side of your screen, you should see a box there where you can type your questions in. If you’ve accidentally closed the box, click on the little red icon at the bottom and it will open it back up.
If you’re ready Courtney, I’ll start with the first question.
Courtney: Yeah, sounds good.
Tom: Okay, great. So this one is, do you ever get to see a project or case fully through or you’re only working on one aspect of it?
Courtney: No, you definitely see things fully through. In fact, next week I am going to be attending a sentencing hearing for a fugitive case that I worked on. It was a case that I started working on as soon as I started working in crime analysis. Eventually, the person was caught through analysis, through a lot of analysis. I’ll be attending their sentencing hearing in about a week now. So, you definitely see the process through and through.
Tom: Grand! Next question would be, since you’re working on so many capacities, is there any way to learn mastering one thing or in one area or is there a way to specialize?
Courtney: Let’s see here. You can — so, part of why I have so many responsibilities here, it has to do with the department size. A lot of times in a smaller department, that serves a smaller population, you’re going to adapt more roles and in a larger department though, they are more specialized. So, in larger departments, you’ll have analyst that will work on specific units, like on a homicide unit or a gang unit or a property crime scene. So, you can specialize in certain types of analysis. But with me, the reason why I’m doing so much is because I am in a smaller agency. Personally, I kind of like it that way. I like being exposed to a lot of different fields and different parts of the operation. So, it really gives me a well-rounded approach to some of my analysis.
Tom: That’s a great point. One thing I’ve also been wondering myself is, at what point and size does an agency had to be before they get a crime analyst or have a department. Is there any correlation between the two or is it totally random or just depends on who’s running the department?
Courtney: Yeah, it really — it can be random and it can depend on who’s running the department. Right now, the City of Sunnyside, it has a population of about 16,000 people. So it’s actually a pretty small town. When I was working at Yakima[ph], that’s a population I believe about 95,000 maybe 98,000 so much larger, but the analysis, the processes are still the same. So, depending on who is running and their vision for the department, that can really play a role in it, but there are many agents, smaller agencies that do have analysts. A lot times they find themselves in multiple roles and not just an analyst role.
Tom: Great! I know we haven’t touch too much on your evidence tech aspect, but this person have a question on that. Her question was, does the evidence tech aspect of your job, do you find it being monotonous or boring?
Courtney: Well, that part of it — you’re kind of using the same set of skills as far as the organization about it. That it can be, but with our department, we’re kind or reorganizing the way we do evidence and try to bring it up to certain accreditation standards. It can be but it’s not entirely — I can give you one example where I’m going through and we’re getting rid of some found property. You’d only have to keep it for 60 days and we’ve kept if for 10 years. So, it was time for us to get rid of it and just kind of cleaning it out, and you’ll find maybe a little pieces of intelligence that were missed by the first officer. So, having that hands-on with what’s being collected out in the field, it can actually be a really valuable information on the analysis side of it. So I found many instances where working back there has actually helped me in my analyst responsibilities.
Tom: All right. The next question here is, does the department train you to use the programs or were these programs taught through your education, both the PSU or at Michigan State?
Courtney: For the most part, these programs were learned through my education. Knowing, learning how to use our records management system. That was kind of a self-taught thing. There wasn’t any formal training when I first started here. Access, I was really fortunate to have a crime analyst sit down with me and show me the different ways and really how it works. So, one thing to know about the crime analysis field is that there is a lot of camaraderie amongst crime analysts. I feel like I can call an analyst anywhere in the country and be able to get right in and get what I need. So, there are a lot of kinds of departments. There would just be one or just a handful of them.
But kind of going back to the training, a lot of it I did learn in the program, the mapping. The crime mapping, definitely I learned through the program and also just the more advanced features of Excel. In law enforcement, there’s always ongoing training, so departments will provide other training classes and you look for training opportunities to enhance your skill set. But, these were things that I did know kind of coming into it.
Tom: I think you answered this question before, but just in case they want your answer later. They may have asked it before you had gone into it. How do you market your education skills you developed with PSU to your employers when you’re looking for positions? I think you talked a little bit about building a resume, building a portfolio.
Courtney: Right, yeah. That was a major thing, applying for a crime analyst job, to have a certificate in Advanced Crime Analysis. So, what I did was — in my crime analysis courses, there are certain assignments and different — particular in a crime analysis course, there are certain analysis assignments, so I kept those. In the crime mapping course, I kept some of the crime maps that I had made. Also in my last semester or my last quarter at school in general at PSU, there was a geographic criminology course that I had taken.
With that, one of the assignments was to pick a community and do kind of like a geographic analysis on it. So, I did that and at the same time was when I saw the job opening for the Sunnyside Police Department. So, I decided to my assignment based on Sunnyside. So if I did by chance get called for an interview, I’d have some kind of knowledge going into that. So, kept that as well and I built a portfolio.
When I submitted my application and my resume, I included this folder of work that I have done to show and demonstrate that I did have analysis experience, despite not having any previous work experience in an analysis field.
Tom: That’s outstanding. This question has to do with your internship. Did you do an internship when you’re in the — I know you started in the campus, but did you do the internship when you were in the program and where did you do it?
Courtney: I did not do an internship in the program. That was not something that I had done. We had a capstone for the program that we did, that we work on. It was a team, a group project.
Tom: Got you! For those of you who aren’t familiar, there are students, some who aren’t able to actually go out and do a physical internship, so there’s an alternative for that. I think that’s what you’re talking about, correct?
Courtney: Right, yeah. When I was in sort of my last semester of school, I just had my daughter, a very small child at home, a six-month-old baby at home. It was really difficult to try to find that time to kind of fit into it because I was staying home with her at the time.
Tom: This question, did you feel you need additional classes after you took this issue, Advanced Crime Analysis Certificate, if you’re qualified for a crime analyst position?
Courtney: Well, I did go on to get my master’s degree and I did that in part because there are quite a few analysts in the field that do have master degrees. But I will say that a lot of the skills that I learned in PSU’s program were just kind of the same skills I ended up learning in my master’s program. So, I will say that I didn’t — I feel just as comfortable as I did going or after completing my bachelor’s degree as I did finish in my master’s degree. It is a competitive field and so there are people out there with master’s degrees that will be applying for the jobs. But there are people that are in the field that don’t have that, there are number of people.
So, it’s not necessary. I mean, continuing education in this field is always going to be important, and different training opportunities and staying on top of the technology. You will always be developing yourself in the field and professionally. But, I wouldn’t say it’s necessary a requirement to take classes after the program.
Tom: This is a good segue to this next question. If you choose to go on to do a master’s program, what types of classes would you specialize in?
Courtney: Well, it just depends on what your professional goals are. I chose to continue with intelligence analysis program because I really enjoy that. There’s going to always be a need for a homeland security jobs. So, that really just depends on what you want to do. Some of my colleagues, they have master’s degrees in criminal justice and also political science. I mean, there are varieties of different fields out there. The computer skills I kind of touched on earlier are really important. So, if I were going to take anymore classes I would maybe want to take some computer science stuff so I have a better kind of technical knowledge. I would say that, I would say more technical courses or geographic system, GIS programs. That would be really helpful, too.
Tom: Thank you so much. This is the — pardon, kind of with the loaded gun question. It’s dealing with salary part. We’ve been — to ever ask you what salary you make, but is there a salary range that you would feel comfortable in giving out, was an average crime analysis, entry level position? In your experience, what you should be expecting?
Courtney: Right. Honestly, it’s going to depend on the area because there are certain areas, parts of the country where the analyst’s salary starts out really low. Then, there are other parts of where it’s a really good median income. So, usually, the range, you’re looking about around $50,000 is a typical range, some more, some less but that seems to be about a median range for the salary.
Tom: And a great website is — people on the Webinar, they have this bls.gov. It’s the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Same people who calculate our taxes and income. All that information is available, so you can look in your particular area, look up crime analysis and they should tell you the low, the median, and the high for that area. So those who haven’t tried that site, it’s bls.gov. The next question here is, were you hired right after graduation?
Courtney: I was. I graduated in June of 2011, and so I had interviewed from the Sunnyside position around April or May of 2011. Literally, kind of I was going down for the graduation ceremony and I got the call, it was a conditional job offer. So, within a month of graduation, I was working in the field.
Tom: That’s a great story. This kind of segue on that, do you think it’s easier to find a job as a new graduate with a smaller department versus a larger department or is there no difference?
Courtney: Well, I think sometimes in larger departments, they’re going to have a higher salary range, and so, that’s going to be more competitive just as a job market. I think the smaller departments that — yeah, it is — I personally love working on a small department. There were still though very competitive applicants that I was going up against, even for working in a smaller community. It really just kind of depends. It really does depends, but I think, I would say so that maybe kind of getting started with a small helped get into the field, but not necessarily because there are a lot of entry level people going into these positions.
I worked at the Yakima Police Department for a while and they recently hired an analyst who doesn’t have crime analyst background. It’s still very possible even at larger departments.
Tom: This question was, were you personally competing with people with their master’s degree when you’re applying for you position? Do you know that? I am not sure.
Courtney: I don’t really know that. I know that I have applied for other crime analyst jobs. I’ve been offered the job in each of them and sometimes I’ve decided to take it in, sometimes not. I know some of other ones that I was up against other people who had master’s degrees. For this one, I’m not too sure. I never knew who was applying. I was just told that they were already in the field.
Tom: It’s just kind of, how did you go about finding your current position and there are bigger couple — should you use, some of the online sources like CareerBuilder, master.com or government sites? How did you seek out the people looking for these positions?
Courtney: I want to say that I either used — I think it’s called governmentjobs.com. It’s something along those lines. I think I found it there. But I was looking at indeed government jobs and then also, I was going on places around it, like around where I lived. I would go on to their city website and look at their different job openings. Also, because the crime analysis program was new here in Sunnyside, they never hired an analyst before. It was somebody that was going to be building up the program. It was also on the news, so I can’t remember exactly how I find out about it, but those were some of little things that I know I did.
Tom: Did you ever use some of the inquiries with the career service department or — I don’t know how our Facebook site was back then. We post a lot of jobs there, but did you ever use either of those resources?
Courtney: No, I didn’t use any of those resources. I didn’t.
Tom: Now, I would say that you are the pioneers and the early part of the program.
Courtney: Yeah. It was a very new program. It started the program in 2009.
Tom: Yeah. That’s actually where we began. So that definitely it’s a lot more for –
Tom: — a lot more of resources available.
Tom: Did your current employment position helped with tuition reimbursement. I know you mentioned some of those things. Have you personally experienced those?
Courtney: I have not personally experienced any tuition reimbursement. I’m not really familiar of other jobs that or crime analyst jobs that have. I mean, it’s possible that they’re out there, depending on each city. Sort of how public funds are used is really important and it’s been in the news a lot, and so a lot of cities are kind of shrinking their budgets and being very careful about where they spend their money. That’s kind of what I’ve noticed. I haven’t personally heard of any tuition reimbursement for analyst in the local sector.
Tom: Yeah. Working in the field for so long, in the beginning, when I started tuition reimbursement from agency, from departments for any employee through working in criminal justice was fairly common practice. It definitely has shrunk. There are still other departments who offer, but just like you said it’s very department-based. You have to kind of follow up with each department and find out what their qualities are.
Courtney: Right. A lot of that will be also employment incentives that there’s a bargaining unit. There’s that side of it being a non-unit, non-representative employee that’s not a benefit that any of the non-unit, non-representative employees got here.
Tom: That’s a great point to make. There’s a difference, right? I don’t know if you want to kind of go with that, for those who that aren’t familiar with it.
Courtney: Right, yeah. I mean a lot of times, like police officers, they’re in a different bargaining unit and a guild or a guild kind of a union type situation, so their benefit packages are a lot different than a lot of times with support role employees of the police department get. So, they typically have a very strong union. Police unions are very strong. And so, sometimes those are benefits that they negotiate for on an annual or biannual basis.
Tom: That’s a great point. This question is when you’re in the interviewing process, what were some of the questions you’re asked? Can you remember back to your interviewing days and what types of questions they’re asking you?
Courtney: Yes. They were asking me about different types of analysis and one of the resources that I used, the International Association of Crime Analysts. They have a webpage. It’s iaca.net. They have a whole bunch of resources for students; police department who is hiring an analyst, for people who are interviewing for an analyst job. So, I went to that website and I studied, there’s like a study guide. I studied that whole guide for days before my interview.
The questions that I ended up, that were on that or on my interview board, they ended up being the ones that I’ve studied. So, the iaca.net is a great resource for that. They ask you different types of — they want to engage your knowledge on different types of analysis and your familiarity with computers. They’ll give you hypothetical questions. A lot of times it is an oral board process and so you’ll have three or four different people from the department asking you questions that sometimes are relevant to their area and their division that they run.
Tom: Great! Those are all very good points. This question, I think you’ve mentioned that you’re — are you considered a sworn officer? Do you carry a firearm or the attire and in your office will — less official or more casual?
Courtney: No. I am a civilian employee. I am not a sworn employee, and so, I wear regular office clothes every day to work. I do not carry a firearm to work and occasionally, I’m out in the field doing some stuff with the detectives. But for the most part, I’m back here in the office.
Tom: Do you think it’s beneficial to be a sworn officer prior to working in a crime analyst position?
Courtney: Not necessarily. There are some people that are sworn that have found themselves in the crime analyst position. But I actually think that non-sworn civilian employees are better suited for the profession. A lot of the analysts that I work with are all civilian employees. There are a lot of differences between being an officer and being an analyst, not just the obvious ones. I mean there are some personality differences as well. So, a lot of times officers finding themselves in this position, they might be wanting to do something else or they’ll be put in the position on a rotational basis for a couple of years and then they’ll rotate somewhere else. I really think that having an analyst being a civilian and having the consistency of that person there in that position doing their job is better.
Tom: Well, thank you so much. That’s the end of the questions. I like to thank all of the individuals who have gone tonight and participated. Big appreciation to Courtney Percival for taking an hour over time to really kind of answer some questions and give some advice to the next generation of crime analysts. Again, thank you Courtney for joining us in passing on what you’ve learned and your experiences. I hope that everyone found this beneficial. You would receive a recording of this later via email. If you like to replay it or if you feel like you missed anything. But again, thank you all for joining. Again, special thank you to Courtney for taking some time out to do this for us.
Courtney: Thank you for having me and good luck to everyone.