Ten members of the UCCS American Criminal Justice Association (ACJA) club competed in four separate written exams, a physical agility test, a firearms competition and crime scene investigations competition last month. Members of the club competed both individually and in groups.
Normally, the competition is an in-person three-day event, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the club had to complete the competition remotely. The club received their instructions and materials on March 28 and had to submit everything by April 11.
Michael Bartels is a senior majoring in criminal justice. He has been the president of the UCCS ACJA club this past year.
According to Bartels, the ACJA competition is a nine-state competition with 12 schools participating. The other Colorado schools include the Colorado Technical University and the University of Colorado Denver.
Bartels said they encourage all members to compete in every event of the regional competition, and that senior instructor in the School of Public Affairs Rich Radabaugh, who serves as the club’s advisor, helps prepare students for the different tests.
“I broke my ankle last semester, so I didn’t do too much this semester. I didn’t shoot very well, but I did okay — I placed 12th,” he said. “Overall, we had two second-place winners, two third-place winners, four fourth-place finishers and numerous other finishers in the top ten.”
After Bartels graduates in fall 2021, he will be going into the criminal justice master’s program at UCCS. In the future, he wants to be either a part-time or full-time instructor in the criminal justice department at the school.
UCCS ACJA club Vice President Amy Wellington is a senior and criminal justice major with a minor in legal studies. She placed third in the physical agility competition among women under 25-years-old.
According to Wellington, the written exams included Juvenile Justice, Corrections, Criminal Law, Police Management and Operations, and ACJA Knowledge. This year, the agility test was to run a quarter of a mile, 25 jumping jacks, 10 air-squats, 25 jumping jacks, and run another quarter mile.
“The firearm competition varies but there are four stages: we start with 7 yards and work our way back to 25 yards,” Wellington wrote via email. “The crime scene investigation was taught by Mr. Radabaugh this year. We prepared by meeting weekly for shooting or we would set up a mock crime scene and roughly go over what points to hit. It was a huge team effort.”
“This past year has been incredibly difficult with COVID but everyone did amazing. They supported and cheered each other on. There were 4 trophies and 2 medals given. I made 3rd place in the agility portion of females 25 and under… my time was 4:15:42—super proud of myself,” Wellington wrote.
After Wellington graduates, she plans to be commissioned in the Air Force as an officer and be a criminal investigator to eventually join the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Natalie Hill is a freshman majoring in criminal justice and psychology. Hill competed in the physical agility test, the crime scene investigation and the four written exams. Hill’s group placed second for crime scene investigation with the help of Ben Turecheck and Alexa Hulmes.
“Our job was writing a police report, witness testimonies/interview, crime scene photographs, police report, and crime scene sketch. My job within the group was the witness testimonies/interview and filling out the police report,” Hill wrote via email.
Kristen Sanchez is a second-year graduate student pursuing a dual master’s in public administration and criminal justice. Sanchez placed second regionally in the Corrections exam, one of the five multiple-choice exams.
“I competed in the 5 multiple choice exams (individual), the agility test (individual), the crime scene test (group), the firearms test (individual). [I] prepared by attending weekly meetings with the club, learning general knowledge about each of the exam topics, target practice, and going to the gym,” she said via email.
Freshman and criminal justice major Dimitri Lopez competed in all areas of the competition except for the firearms portion due to unfavorable weather conditions.
When asked how they prepared for the competition, Lopez said via email, “Before I had some issues with my knee, I was going to the gym 5 times a week and I was either running or doing jump rope to keep in shape with my endurance. That was cut short about 2 weeks before the exam and I did not do much cardio after that.”
Lopez continued, “I did decently well. I am not going to blame my knee for my results, but that did have some effect and started a fire in my heart to beat the times that I got this tournament.”
Ben Turecheck could not be reached for comment, but he placed third in Juvenile Justice.
The entire UCCS team was comprised of Bartels, Gabriella DesForges, Hill, Hulmes, Lopez, Robert Morley, Valerie Natoli, Sanchez, Turecheck and Wellington.
The UCCS chapter of the ACJA is Upsilon Chi Chi Sigma. The club was started in Fall 2019 by a group of four students. They are now up to 14 members.
“We invite people from all sorts of backgrounds [to join] and are excited to travel this fall,” Wellington wrote.
“In October, we plan to compete in the in-person regional competition in Garden City, Kansas,” Bartels said. “My plan this next semester is to also bring in a retired warden from the Federal Bureau of students to come and speak to students.”
“I would invite people to join so that they can broaden their horizons in the criminal justice field and get weapons training from members that are, like me, in the military and from a professor who was a former CSPD officer,” Bartels said.
To become a member of the UCCS chapter of the ACJA, you must be enrolled in at least one criminal justice class. If you are interested in joining the club, reach out to Bartels (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sanchez (email@example.com). More information on the club can be found on Mountain Lion Connect.