When Professor Craig Allen was appointed Program Coordinator of Lubbock Christian University’s Criminal Justice program in 2022, he knew that his extensive experience and expertise as a police officer would benefit the program—and just one year later, prestigious departments across the state are fighting to hire graduates of that program as officers.

Professor Allen began his criminal justice career in 1989 as a police officer in the Dallas area. During that time, he worked in a number of positions and areas, including patrol, SWAT, accident investigation, police training, and crime scene investigation. As he served in this profession, Allen discovered that he enjoyed teaching, and as an instructor with the police force, he taught classes on crime scenes, emergency driving, CPR, and methods of policing. He also occasionally lectured in the high-school classroom of a friend in Denton in their criminal justice program, sharing about cases on which he had worked.

As he approached the end of his 24-year career in law enforcement, Allen began exploring different options for what he would do once he retired. His wife was from West Texas, so he knew they wanted to return to the South Plains, but in what capacity?

AltAfter 24 years of service as a police officer, Assistant Professor Craig Allen transitioned to lead the LCU Criminal Justice program.“At one point in time, I thought that maybe I wanted to work for an insurance company doing accident investigations, but I realized that it wasn't really what I wanted for the long term,” he explained. “I had worked with a teacher in Denton because she was also a trace evidence analyst from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office—she would ask me to talk to her classes about cases that we worked together. I have family members who taught in schools, and I realized that teaching is something I really like. I had always enjoyed teaching in the police department, and a school classroom is often a lot more positive environment than law enforcement can be.”

That calling was realized when, while exploring options of moving back to Lubbock, a family friend forwarded Allen’s name for an opening for a criminal justice instructor at Frenship High School in Wolfforth. He sent the district his resume, and within three days, Officer Craig Allen had been hired for his first teaching position.

“I retired on Thursday, was hired on Friday, and started teaching on Monday,” he recalled, joking, “it was a short retirement.”

At Frenship, Allen quickly confirmed his love of teaching but knew that if he pursued a master’s degree, he would be eligible to teach at the college level—something he’d come to see as an exciting possibility. A few years later, he took his first college position as an instructor at South Plains College.

“Ultimately, I wanted to come to LCU—my wife (Kelli Jackson, ‘95) and all of her family were graduates—but I just didn't know if that point would ever come,” he recalled.

Fortunately for him, in January of 2019, that moment did come. Professor Dana Cooley, director of LCU’s Criminal Justice program, was appointed by Texas Governor Gregg Abbott as Judge of the 132nd District Court. Her appointment left a vacancy at the position, and a connection at church knew that Allen would be a great fit.

Dr. Jeana Culbert, a professor of social work in that same department, came straight up to me at church and said, ‘We're going to have an opening—you need to apply for this.’ I knew I'd have to work on a Ph.D.—that was holding me back,” he noted, “but it was one of those things I knew I couldn’t miss. I tell people, ‘Be careful what you ask for—you just might get it. If you ask God to open the door, sometimes he will open the door and kick you through.’ That's exactly the way it happened here.”

Professor Allen was hired as the new program director beginning in the Fall of 2022, but he wasn’t the only one making his new start on LCU’s campus. Transfer student Berkeley Quinn ('23) was finding her own way into LCU’s criminal justice program.

altBerkely Quinn first learned of LCU because of her talent in softball—but it was LCU’s criminal justice program that cemented her decision to become a Chaparral.After leaving her hometown of Yorba Linda, California, Quinn had signed to play softball for the University of California, Riverside. After two years she entered the NCAA transfer portal, and LCU Softball Head Coach Daren Hays reached out to offer her a scholarship to play for the Lady Chaps. The scholarship offer was intriguing, of course, but LCU’s criminal justice program was what ultimately sold Quinn on coming to Lubbock.

“I’ve always wanted to become a police officer,” she shared. “My dad is a police officer in Anaheim, California, and that career has always interested me. When I transferred, I was looking at two other schools—it was between Weber State, Utah, and LCU, because they all had criminal justice programs. But when I actually came to visit LCU, Anna Allred in Admissions really opened my eyes to the fact that LCU has law enforcement experience in criminal justice faculty, and that was really rare. That's what really set LCU apart from every other school that I was looking at.”

Quinn added that from her very first class with Professor Allen, that real-world experience and expertise was evident in his teaching.

“He’s my academic advisor, and I’ve had at least one or two courses with him each semester,” she explained. “In criminal investigations, he's bringing actual cases and where we can look at the real evidence. Being able to see that here, that experience has related a lot into my internship. There have been a lot of times that I could say, ‘Oh, okay, I've learned this before, I’ve walked through this process.’ It’s been so important having a professor with an actual background in law enforcement, because they’ve seen the process, the work, firsthand.”

Professor Allen added, “The last 10 years of my law enforcement career, I worked as a crime scene investigator, so these students get to see crime scene photos—and it's not stuff off the internet. It's the actual photos from the case. I've had a couple of cases that were on shows like ABC’s 20/20 and NBC’s Dateline. I use those to show the students, ‘This is what you see on 20/20 and Dateline—now, here's the real story, here are the real crime scene photos.’ They get to see the reality of it, because sometimes the reality is different from what is shown on TV.”

Another area that gives LCU’s criminal justice program an advantage over other schools is the university’s integration of faith into the courses.

“I think that law enforcement does test your morals because you see the worst of people,” Quinn shared, “but LCU emphasizes showing that it's a family and building those true connections with your family. A huge part of law enforcement is just not being negative and focusing on those hard things but being able to let those things go, because people are going to make mistakes.”

Professor Allen explained, “I try to show my students that one of the biggest lessons that I've learned is that prisons are full of good people who just make a bad mistake—that just because someone was imprisoned doesn't mean they're forever bad. We have to keep that in mind. I had a family member that had some issues with law enforcement, and that was something my aunt made sure that I understood when I got into law enforcement. We must remember that whoever we deal with is somebody's son, somebody's daughter, mother, or brother—keeping that in mind really changed my perspective on a lot of things.”

AltProfessor Allen’s experience shows up frequently in the classroom as he applies his real-life examples to classroom discussions and examples.“I tell people all the time that with a career in law enforcement, criminal justice, corrections—everything that's under that big criminal justice umbrella—you're in a perfect position to minister to people,” he continued. “It may not necessarily be in a religious way of ministering people—although that does happen at times—but people don't call us when things are going well; they call us when things are going bad. We have a unique opportunity to help people navigate those bad times in their life, and we have a choice to do that in a positive way with a chance to truly impact and change lives.”

In a program with significant portions of interactive coursework like fingerprinting, one of the most interactive elements of the curriculum is the end-of-class project in the upper-level criminal investigations course. Professor Allen splits the class into two groups, and each group designs and sets up a crime scene for the other group to investigate.

“When I was in the academy and learning how to identify a bomb, the best way to know what to look for in a bomb is know how to build bombs—so they taught us how to build bombs,” Professor Allen explained. “If you want to know what to look for in a crime scene, then you should build one. We have a space with three rooms connected, and so we can set up a crime scene to simulate an office, or to simulate a bedroom, or any number of other environments. We also have all sorts of things, including synthetic blood, to try and simulate as best as we can what an officer might find when entering a crime scene.”

Another opportunity that Professor Allen has been working toward is providing more hands-on internship experiences for students in the program.

Berkeley Quinn was placed in an internship with the Lubbock County Sherriff’s Office, and she believes that the experience has been invaluable.

“I'm able to go out and ride with deputies,” she explained. “I've looked at a couple cold cases, an autopsy, drug cases, car accidents—anything under the sun. There was a child abuse case we had a couple of weeks ago, and I rode on a pursuit the other day that, while it really wasn't that long, the officers all had their guns drawn and everything, and I was able to see to how they handled giving commands and everything like that in action. I've toured the jails, seen the whole booking process, learned how to write an affidavit—so I'm able to get experience on all of it. It's a great opportunity, and it really tests you to see if you're fit for this job.”

altQuinn’s hard work in and out of the classroom quickly paid off as two different police forces competed to hire her even before she graduated. If recent events are any indication, Quinn seems to have passed that test with flying colors. In September, both the McKinney and Frisco police departments were racing to hire her onto their forces.

“I tested with McKinney, and then one week later I tested at Frisco,” she explained, “and then they both finished my background check within a week or so.”

“That's unheard of,” Professor Allen emphasized, “to get things done that quick, and to have the departments contact her saying, ‘We've already checked your calendar, we know that you're on fall break, so you can come back to Dallas to then knock out a psychological interview with the chief oral board’—everything was around her schedule, because they were both trying to get her first.”

Within one month of applying, Berkeley Quinn accepted a job offer with the McKinney Police Department.

“That's what we want,” shared Professor Allen emphatically. “We want our graduates to be the kind of people that every one of these agencies are clamoring over each other to hire. We have so many students that are capable of doing the same thing. We know that there's problems in law enforcement—you can watch the media most days and see that—but the only way we're going to fix those problems is replace those bad officers with good officers. This is a prime opportunity for LCU and our students to truly change the industry. Berkely is going to ace it up there, and it’s great—that's the kind of people LCU is sending out to make impacts in the industry, and in people’s lives, right now.”