Grad Q&A with Criminal Justice Corrections graduate Keishawn Abney
Each day Keishawn Abney goes to work he is prepared to use various levels of physical force, tactical maneuvers and effective communication to thwart intrusion and potential threat to his jobsite. As a Federal Police Officer for the Department of Defense in Palmdale CA, he is confident he has the skills, knowledge and composure required to handle whatever comes his way.
Now 24-years old, Keishawn launched his law enforcement career a little over three years ago when he completed SJVC’s Criminal Justice Corrections program on the Lancaster campus. That education and career move solidified what he had always known: he was meant to serve and protect.
What are your job responsibilities at your current jobsite?
I provide plant security and respond to emergency calls for four government contractors (NASA, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman) located here in Palmdale. The Plant 42 police department is the first line of defense to protect the plant in situations like an active shooter or other emergencies. Non-emergency operations we’ll be on the gates or drive the perimeter to make sure no one is staying on base; we also handle traffic control and violations.
How did you choose a career in law enforcement?
My childhood mentor, Randy Simmons, was a LAPD officer and SWAT team member. He had brought it (career in law enforcement) up in church and when I got interested, he talked with me about it. Sadly, Officer Simmons died in the line of duty on a LAPD SWAT call out in 2008.
And I wanted to emulate my uncle Joseph who was also in law enforcement. He gave me my first ballistic vest when I was just nineteen. Later, I used that vest as a private contractor for the Federal government before I became a federal employee. When I went to work, I always had it on.
How did you choose a school and training program for your career aspirations?
I worked for Lockheed Martin as a security guard but saw lots of opportunities if I had higher credentials. I saw an ad for SJVC (Criminal Justice Corrections program) on Facebook. I decided to schedule an appointment with an Admissions Advisor (Jessica), and I saw the opportunity I could get from doing the CJC program. It tied in with my security background and helped me move into a supervisor position at Lockheed Martin (where he was working at that time).
Did you have to quit your job to focus school?
My CJC evening classes were out at 10:00 PM (Mon.-Thrs.) and I started work at 10:30 PM until 6:30 AM. I’d go home and sleep until noon, get up, do homework, then do it all over again.
I got a lot of support from Joe Reyes, the CJC Program Director. He let me come in early to study and go over materiel for the test. There were only ten cadets in our academy class, so we all helped each other doing homework and everything. But, in 14-months I graduated with an Associate’s degree.
What were some of the most difficult challenges of the CJC program?
I’m not a good test-taker, so it was good that the instructors let me go in early to study for a test. Some classmates had a hard time climbing over the 6’ wall. You needed good upper body training and had to get a good running start. The physical part wasn’t as hard for me because I felt I was in shape from the AFJROTC program in high school.
Any big surprises during the program?
I was surprised we were going to get pepper-sprayed – but that was pretty fun. It burned a little bit, but there were a couple of minutes where you couldn’t breathe. We rinsed our eyes out but had to sit in the classroom for an hour before they would let us drive home.
There were a lot of different personalities in the classroom and every day in class we would just bust out laughing at something. We were always on guard for random situations (scenarios designed to test skills and knowledge) that could happen that we would have to respond to correctly. The instructor would spring something on us like an argument or simulated fight, drunken or medical emergency. And we would have to use our training and trust our instincts to respond appropriately. Students from other programs would volunteer to act out these situations.
Was there an immediate benefit from your program studies that you did not expect?
I was doing security at the same time, and we would go over some of the laws I was struggling with. Some of the laws I was already using on the job and others I was not familiar with.
The Academy part of the CJC program was 3-months long and we were doing a lot of different techniques and defensive tactics, using the baton and control holds. I was already working in the field, and this helped me a lot to handle myself while I was on the job.
SJVC’s report-writing class helped me for what I use now. I wouldn’t have known how to write an actual report like that, but now write probably 25-reports each week.
Also, we were a tight group. We hung out, talked about what were learned. There was definitely a social and personal connection (with classmates), too.
What certifications and credentials have you earned throughout your CJC program and after?
My focus was to get my Associate’s degree. I needed that to help me out in the future, to get to where I am now. After I graduated, I kept working where I was for about 6-months, then went to work for LAPD at the Communications Center and for the mayor of Los Angeles at City Hall.
I am a Range Safety Officer and an NRA certified firearms instructor. I also got my baton instructor’s license. SJVC taught me firearms tactics on the range to qualify for a Firearms permit.
Three times a month I work with a friend at Dangerfield Arms where we instruct law enforcement personnel and civilians in how to use firearms safely and correctly.
What is your point-of-view of current social unrest and some negative opinion of law enforcement?
Depending on what is going on at any given time, we have to deal with different things going on in our cities and around the world on a day-to-day basis.
Everyone has an opinion, and I just don’t take it to heart when people make rash comments to me or my partner. But, when you talk about law enforcement as a whole, it comes down to: If you break the law, expect to be held accountable.
What does your career in law enforcement mean to you?
We in law enforcement/corrections took an oath to uphold the law, so we live by that. That’s the first thing they teach in the police academy. If a law is being broken, it’s our job and duty to step in and uphold the law. The second thing is to always help the public. We’re here to serve public safety.
Where will you go from here?
I want to further my education. I’m in the process, doing the paperwork, for my Bachelor’s in Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Eventually, I want to become a SWAT team member and be part of a Federal SWAT team, as well as a K9 officer.
Learn More About A Career In Criminal Justice: Corrections
Read our complete guide on what it takes to work in the corrections or private security field in California.
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