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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Nashua Community College developing new criminal justice program with help from police

Danielle Curtis

David Dinwoodie still remembers his time as a state police intern when he was a student at Saint Anselm College years ago.

It was 1988, and the northern town of Jefferson was plagued by a serial arsonist who set fire to brush, barns and inhabited homes for months. Dinwoodie’s internship sent him to the town with state police, participating on midnight patrols around the area. ...

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David Dinwoodie still remembers his time as a state police intern when he was a student at Saint Anselm College years ago.

It was 1988, and the northern town of Jefferson was plagued by a serial arsonist who set fire to brush, barns and inhabited homes for months. Dinwoodie’s internship sent him to the town with state police, participating on midnight patrols around the area.

“Even though nothing happened, my heart was pounding,” he said Wednesday.

Now, Dinwoodie is hoping his new job will let him give today’s students the same experiences.

Dinwoodie was hired by Nashua Community College six weeks ago, charged with designing and implementing a new degree program in criminal justice.

The college will start up a certificate program in the field this fall, with courses already filling up. By the 2014-15 school year, Dinwoodie hopes to have an associate degree program up and running.

On Wednesday, the work to advance the degree program got started with a meeting of a criminal justice advisory board, attended by members of local law enforcement agencies, state police, state Department of Corrections and local attorneys.

“I’m smart enough to know that I need experts in the field to tell me if this is going in the right direction,” Dinwoodie said Wednesday, laughing.

And those experts, who included Merrimack Police Chief Mark Doyle, Nashua Deputy Police Chief Andrew Lavoie and Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance, had plenty of thoughts on the program, saying it should communicate to students the professional atmosphere of law enforcement and ensure that they get plenty of real-world experience.

Dinwoodie, who worked with state police for years before retiring in 2003 and teaching criminal justice at the high school level, came to NCC earlier this summer to head the criminal justice program after interest among the student body to start such a program.

He was given a blank slate and said he could take the program in any number of directions. While the associate degree program likely will focus on the basics of law enforcement – from criminal law and juvenile justice to criminal procedure and corrections – there likely also will be a chance for students to take classes in areas of homeland security or security management.

Because there are other criminal justice programs in the state, including a well-known one at Concord’s NHTI, Dinwoodie said it’s important for the NCC program to create its own niche to attract students.

Exactly where the program goes, Dinwoodie said, will depend on the direction he receives from the advisory board.

In the meantime, the criminal justice certificate program already has generated a lot of interest.

Dinwoodie said the two classes available for students this fall quickly reached their 25-student capacity. There was so much additional interest, he said, the college decided to allow up to 30 students in each course.

Now, his focus is on teaching and helping turn the certificate program into an associate degree path.

The college just submitted a letter of intent to start the program to the community college system, but Dinwoodie said the process for starting a new degree program can be a long one. He hopes the program might be approved by the time the advisory board meets again in January.

Dinwoodie said the board’s help will be crucial to developing a program that is most beneficial to students, ensuring they have the skills needed in the real world.

“I think what the law enforcement community learned from emergencies like 9/11 is that partnerships are huge,” he said. “I seek to form those partnerships to help develop this program.”

Danielle Curtis can be reached
at 594-6557 or dcurtis@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Curtis on Twitter (@Telegraph_DC).