Temecula’s Corrections Program Director is committed to serve, protect and inspire

by Nyla on October 23, 2018 · 9:00 am

SJVC Temecula Corrections Program Director Kent ChivingtonIt shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that after Kent Chivington devoted 12 years serving his country in the Marine Corps and 20 years as an officer in the Police Department protecting the community, his next move would be to inspire Criminal Justice Corrections program students in the classroom and on the training field.

As Corrections Program Director for the Temecula campus’ new Criminal Justice: Corrections program, Chivington brings a lifetime of discipline, wisdom and leadership into play in ways that promote student success. Program curriculum comes to life with his first-person stories of almost every scenario a law enforcement officer might encounter in the line of duty.

“My teaching style is to be as interactive as possible with the students and their instructors,” says Chivington. “I really like sarcasm and jokes, something that makes the coursework information more exciting and the students laugh a little.”

Just 90 days into the roll-out of this new program, word is getting around that this is a great option for those with an interest in a law enforcement career. “SJVC is a great alternative to a community college or a four-year university,” says Chivington. “Here you get hands-on experiences, including weapons training, defensive tactics, life-saving techniques, tactical practices and physical training that better prepares graduates for real-world encounters in their roles.”

SJVC also provides job-search assistance for all graduates.

Many have entertained the idea of a life in law enforcement. “Often they have a naïve vision of what the job entails,” says Chivington. “They get the idea from television that if you have a badge and a gun, you’re way cool.” Law enforcement officers are no different from anyone else, he points out. “We are all just one decision away from a uniform or a jumpsuit.”

The Corrections classroom is full of those ready to wear the uniform and show up full-force. It is Kent Chivington’s job to make sure they get what they came for – and understand what is required of them in order to suit up and do the job.

Most law enforcement agencies adopt and exercise the same principle: Protect and serve. “There are two sides of life: Good and evil,” says Chivington. “In between those two elements is a gap we call ‘the thin blue line.’ Law enforcement officers are willing to step into that gap to prevent the bad from hurting the good.” That gap is often a dangerous place to be. Effective officers need specialized training and well-honed instincts to diffuse potentially flammable situations whenever possible – or optimal aggression when necessary.

Chivington likes to teach students about high-pressure choices with real-life stories, including this one:

It was my first encounter with a death-row inmate. He was a massive man, probably 6’4” and 240 lbs. By contrast, I am 5’5” and 120 lbs.  As soon as I walked into the segment where he was housed, he began to challenge me. I knew he was looking for a reaction. He stared hard at me and asked what I would do if I ever got locked in a cell with him and he was mad. Real mad. I knew he was looking for me to push back, disrespect him by asserting my authority. Instead, I told him I would kick him in his privates, poke him in his eyes and run around and around until other deputies came. You could call it the Three Stooges defense tactic. It instantly broke the tension. He laughed and said, “OK, now I know where you’re coming from.” I did not stoop to his level or take it personally; I responded with humor. We both got to keep our dinner plans.

The lesson Chivington wanted his students to absorb: “Use of force is way down on the go-to list and should be your last option. Your communication abilities – the words you speak – are your greatest assets. So much of the time what you say next is going to get you into trouble or get you out of trouble.”

Chivington works closely with SJVC’s Corrections program instructors to make certain that their students have every opportunity to not just succeed but excel in their chosen field. It’s a team effort. He oversees instructors but makes it clear that he is not there in a strictly supervisory role. “Authoritarian is not my style at all,” he says. “We’re all part of a working team. For me, it’s setting the model and placing the bar high for instructors to be passionate about the Corrections program.”

“Kent is an outstanding instructor,” says Robyn Whiles, Temecula Campus President. “He has passion for his profession and shares this with his students. He sees his role as an honor; an honor to support students to succeed while participating in a noble profession.”

The Criminal Justice Corrections program attracts students from all walks of life. Many want a career in law enforcement because they admire someone in their family who took that path. Others are there because a friend or family member went the other direction and created a life with little purpose or accomplishment; one that brought pain and sorrow.

Chivington overheard a young female Corrections cadet talking to a fellow classmate recently. “She said that she was in this program to break the cycle in her family. She said she was tired of family members getting into trouble with law enforcement. I thought what she said was very powerful. She’s got a desire to do good, not only for herself, but for her family.”

These are the moments that fuel a teacher’s momentum. “What I want to impart to these students every day is that when you suit up, you’re walking into that barrier, that thin blue line, to protect and serve. You are stepping into that void between good and evil with the same passion that I did for 20 years.”

Throughout his extensive careers in the military and law enforcement, Kent has had the steady love and backing of his wife Heather and their two daughters Zoe and Cara. “They always supported my career and understood when I missed events or when we had to celebrate holidays at unique times,” he says.

His passion and faith are well-placed in the spirits of a new generation of those called to the front lines of their communities. Because they are “in the gap,” everyone is a little safer.

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