Find out more about the educational path this alum pursued.
Meet Kenneth Bitting,
When Kenneth Bitting was 18 years old and fresh out of high school, he had only one goal in mind: He wanted to become a police officer. But there was a problem. Police Academy recruits had to be at least 21 years old. So how should he wait out those three years?
“I went to my advisors at the police explorer units,” says Bitting. “All three of them were Vietnam vets and they told me, ‘Join the military.’” So he did.
In 1986, Bitting enlisted in the U.S. Army and joined the First Infantry Division in Germany. He spent three years as an airborne infantryman before returning stateside and joining the U.S. Army Reserves. When he returned to his native Huntington Beach, California, Bitting used the GI Bill to finish what he set out to do: attend Golden West Police Academy, which eventually led to a job at the Alhambra Police Department in Los Angeles.
Bitting was exactly where he thought he wanted to be in life and yet he realized–it wasn’t enough. He wanted more–more education, more opportunity and more of a chance to make a difference in an industry he truly loved. He took a job with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, and then moved on to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Police Department, a position that took him on a completely unexpected path after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“After 9/11, federal employees that had law enforcement were the first people recruited to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),” says Bitting. “They could easily be transferred from one agency to the other immediately. There was a three-day vetting process and then I was hired.”
Today, Bitting is a senior federal agent with the DHS working out of the Los Angeles area. His office oversees operations in California, Hawaii and Guam. He’s a uniformed officer focusing on mass transit, which means you might see him inspecting passenger and commercial trains for dangerous cargo, interrogating suspicious travelers at airports and escorting commercial passenger ships out of port to make sure that they are not used as weapons of terrorism.
“If we come across anything that might be suspicious, we’ll turn it over to the Joint Terrorism Task Force and they will continue the investigation,” says Bitting. “Sometimes we’ve been involved in actual physical arrests, such as if there’s a federal violation of law or act of violence. Those include bringing weapons inside a sterile area of the airport, for instance, or acts of violence against the public.”
Shortly after being hired by DHS in 2002, Bitting received a flyer in the mail from the University of Phoenix. College, a long-held dream, seemed impossible considering his work and travel schedule. But the University of Phoenix seemed to have the answers to his problem. He enrolled at the Southern California campus but did most of his coursework online, only reporting to class one day a week.
– Kenneth Bitting, BSCJA '05
Three years later, in 2005, Bitting had his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration. But again, he got more than he bargained for, because Bitting had been bitten by the teaching bug.
“One of my instructors, an Orange County district attorney and investigator, said, ‘I’m retiring this year from the sheriff’s department. I’m moving to Colorado, where I might teach online.’ And I’m thinking, wow, that’s the job that I want to have when I retire,” says Bitting. “You can retire and you can basically teach online anywhere in the world.”
But to teach, Bitting would need his master’s degree. He enrolled in Gonzaga University and in 2007 earned his master’s degree in organizational leadership. With that degree in hand, he quickly got a job teaching online criminal law classes.
Today he is pursuing his Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership degree from the University of Phoenix. His thesis examines how different leadership styles in law enforcement impact employee satisfaction and retention.
“The cost of hiring and training a law enforcement officer is roughly $100,000 in Southern California,” he says. “Every time a person leaves an organization, they take knowledge with them. And now the organization has to back-fill that knowledge by other means. So, it’s a measure for them to help manage their human resources and increase work productivity. That’s why I focused on it.”
Bitting’s research is already winning him fans in the law enforcement community, who applaud his examination of questions that have never been studied in this way before. He has published a white paper on his research and is already being asked to present his results to local law enforcement groups.
At age 46, Bitting is five years away from being able to retire from DHS. He’s already thinking deeply about what he should do next. Stay with DHS? Retire? Go full force into academia?
Whatever he does, his education will be a big part of what gets him there.
“As one chief of police told me, once you have your Ph.D., the doors of opportunity will open up for you much more than they are now,” Bitting says. “But you have to get those credentials.”
While widely available, not all programs are available in all locations or in both online and on-campus formats. Please check with a University Enrollment Representative by calling 866.766.0766.