Crime doesn’t pay.
But a criminal justice degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga can.
Just ask Lt. Adam Emery with the Chattanooga Police Department.
Born and raised in Harrison, Tennessee, Emery received a criminal justice degree from UTC in 2003.
“The end goal was to be an investigator, specifically homicide. At the time, I thought about going into federal law enforcement but realized, after talking to several federal agents, that it wasn’t for me,” he said.
He worked his way up the ladder at CPD from a uniformed officer to investigator to supervisor and finally into administration, almost exclusively in the homicide division.
Chattanooga police officers aren’t required to have a college degree, “but it definitely helps when you’re trying to get promoted,” Emery said.
Sgt. Taylor Walker hopes that’s true. A UTC alum who also works in homicide, he recently applied for a lieutenant position.
Walker graduated from UTC in 2005 with a criminal justice degree but didn’t seek a promotion until now, instead focusing on investigations.
“Once you start promoting, you promote out of being to do certain things,” said Walker.
Like Emery, homicide investigations are his passion, but he finally hit a point where he was ready to rise in rank even though it meant spending less time in the field.
Both men said the UTC criminal justice program set them up for success, including larger salaries and building a solid foundation for their life’s work.
“It’s definitely given me a better understanding of how policing impacts different communities, and I think UTC does a pretty good job of teaching criminal justice from a lot of different perspectives,” Walker said.
Emery agreed and said learning to write in college was perhaps the most important skill he acquired.
From reports to search warrants to supplemental reports, writing plays a bigger role in police than might be depicted in the media.
“Another thing is that since we are so paperwork and documentation intensive, it helps having gone to college because you learn how to write papers, how to organize information, how to articulate your thoughts on paper so they can help successfully prosecute a case,” he said.
“What we write becomes part of the official record and is read by judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, so you’ve got to have it together. The defense attorneys are looking for that small mistake that could derail a case.”
Emery and Walker have also worked closely with current criminal justice students at UTC over the years. CPD is just one of many local, state and national law enforcement agencies that UTC has partnered with to create a robust internship program for criminal justice students.