Zheta Rho Omega’s trophies from national competitions. Photo by Andrew Hartnett.
By Annie Beurman
When a person dreams of pursuing law enforcement in their future, the path to reaching this goal isn’t always easy. There are many steps a person must take in order to achieve this goal. An easy way to get started is by joining the Lambda Alpha Epsilon club (LAE), also known as the American Criminal Justice Association.
However, while the national name of the organization is Lambda Alpha Epsilon, the local chapters on college campuses across the country each carry a different name.
“Lambda Alpha Epsilon is the whole national organization’s name. … Zeta Rho Omega is our chapter here at Johnson County Community College … so all the chapters at the different universities will have a different name,” said club secretary Spencer Nauta.
According to club adviser Frank Galbrecht, the LAE chapter at the college has been active for 16 years.
“I started in 2008 and [the club] was active before that,” he said.
LAE does volunteer work and tours a variety of Kansas locations relevant to criminal justice and law enforcement. Club members have visited the Sunflower House, the Olathe Police Department and the Juvenile Detention Center.
One of their more popular tours was to the Johnson County Crime Lab.
“We got the whole club to go to that so there was a big presence, and we definitely learned a lot about law enforcement and the different aspects.” said Nauta.
In addition to off-campus visits, the club also often has guest speakers. Johnson County Assistant District Attorney (DA) Erika DeMarco spoke at a recent club meeting on March 3. DeMarco mostly deals with cases related to child abuse or sex crimes and shared much of her experience with LAE members.
The club is also no stranger to hardware, having won several trophies in the past from the LAE’s national conference, where they compete academically and physically in regionals with other schools. The group participates in competitions such as shooting practice and carrying dummies. Evidence of their past victories can be seen on display in the Police Academy building.
Student Austin Hayes is only on his first full semester with LAE, but he is currently working with the Olathe Police Department Explorers Unit. Hayes has strived to become involved in law enforcement for most of his life, following in the path of his father, who has worked for law enforcement since Hayes’ childhood.
“When I was 18 I had heard … that there was an explorer’s unit at the Olathe Police Department. … I figured I’d give it a shot, go ahead and apply for it, and they took me out of the top 10 … and I’ve been in it ever since. It’s been three years,” said Hayes.
After a person gets hired at the Olathe Police Department and goes through police academy and two mandatory years of working patrol, they can apply for other positions on the job such as K-9 and SRO (School Resource Officers). Hayes said he plans to go into the TSU (Tactical Support Unit), which is the department’s SWAT team.
LAE can often be seen selling baked goods on campus, and unless there’s a tour scheduled, the club meets every Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in the Police Academy building in room 145.