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Studying Criminal Justice in the UK

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By Courtney Gilmartin

Riding along with English constables, cruising the River Thames and visiting the famed New Scotland Yard are among the ways some University of Central Florida students will be spending Spring Break.

Seventeen criminal justice majors, along with Associate Professor Ross Wolf, are traveling to the United Kingdom from March 2 -14 to get a first-hand look at the English system.

"The American criminal justice system is founded on the UK model," Wolf said. "I hope students gain a better understanding of the American system and local governments by exploring another culture's."

The students will learn about police operations including firearms, forensics and dog handling through tours of police headquarters and seminars at the Universities of Chester and Gloucestershire. They'll also explore the different elements of community policing, which is a keystone of the UK system.

"Students are going to see a lot of the interaction between the police officers and the community," said Wolf. "They'll be able to compare that to the ride-alongs and other job-shadowing they've done here."

Although the American policing system is rooted in UK traditions, the two are very different.

The UK's police system is comprised of less than 40 agencies, whereas the U.S. has a more decentralized system with more than 18,000 different police and law enforcement agencies. Additionally, volunteer community policing is a major aspect of the UK's criminal justice system, where many officers patrol unarmed.

Students will learn more about how volunteer officers are recruited and trained during a presentation on how the UK is preparing to host the 2012 Olympics in London.

The international travel experience also gives UCF students an edge when applying for jobs. Karla Amaya graduates in May and hopes to one day work for a federal agency.

"It's great that I'll already have an understanding of foreign law enforcement and that I've been to other parts of the world," said Amaya. "It won't be a complete culture shock if my job requires that I travel."

For others, such as Kena Bracey, there are added benefits to the experience. The trip marks her first time on an airplane.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me," said Bracey.

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