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5 emerging criminal justice fields

The future of criminal justice is high-tech — from police beats to border security to the courts. “Science and technology are going to play a huge role in criminal justice over the next 20 years,” according to Steven Campas, a retired police commander and campus college chair for the University of Phoenix College of Criminal Justice and Security at the Sacramento Valley Campus.

Here are five areas of criminal justice to consider:

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity

“Computers and smartphones were designed to make life easier,” Campas notes, “but they also create new opportunities for criminals.”

Identity theft and computer hacking are the most common cybercrimes, but new types appear all the time, adds Hector Garcia, a private security consultant and an instructor in the University’s organizational management program. “This area is growing exponentially,” Garcia says, “so [law enforcement] agencies are developing new jobs to respond.”

Examples include IT specialists who can integrate programming skills with law enforcement principles. “These professionals are coming into policing at all levels,” Campas says, from working on federal cyberterrorism units to educating the public on cybercrime prevention.

Job opportunities also exist in private cybersecurity — especially in biometrics, which integrates individuals’ personal characteristics with technology. “Think iris scans, face-recognition software or computer chips in employee IDs that can monitor movement in secured facilities,” Campas says.

Computer forensics

Computer forensics

Cybercrimes and real-world crime scenes that involve computers are creating a new discipline. “Computer forensics investigators use various algorithms to extract documents from hard drives or cyberspace,” Garcia explains, “and analyze online behavior to gather evidence for criminal investigations.

Culturally sensitive policing

Culturally sensitive policing

Changing demographics across the nation are affecting how law enforcement officers interact with communities and criminals, whether that involves speaking foreign languages, understanding different cultures or responding to immigrant street gangs. This means law enforcement agencies must recruit more officers from diverse backgrounds.

According to the California Department of Finance, the state population will be 54.2 percent Hispanic and Asian by 2020. “We need officers who can communicate with those communities and understand the culture,” Campas says.

Garcia agrees, pointing to growing Muslim populations in cities like Detroit, and Caribbean immigrants in South Florida, among other emerging ethnic groups.

Homeland security

Homeland security

Federal homeland security programs continue to expand, leading to new job opportunities.

“The TSA [Transportation Security Administration] needs sophisticated screeners who understand how to use the latest scanning technologies that can detect everything from liquid explosives to plastic guns,” Garcia says, adding that the TSA Associates Program provides opportunities for its officers to obtain additional education.

Other growth areas include infrastructure protection and border security, according to Garcia. “We need people who can fly drones that track heavy equipment movement, monitor water and electrical supplies,” he says, “and investigate human trafficking.”

Courtroom and corrections technology

Courtroom and corrections technology

The technology that improves our everyday lives also has increased courtroom efficiency, and Garcia says the criminal justice system must employ professionals who understand it.

“Courts are using voice-recognition software instead of court reporters, video arraignments and home-monitoring technology for house arrest,” he says. “We need people who know how to run and fix all of that equipment.”

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