Det. Terry Martin (l) and SHSU intern Margarito Gonzales at the Arlington Police Department.
Gonzales, a senior in the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University, rotated through many sections of the Arlington Police Department, such as Homicide, Domestic Crimes, Crimes against Children, Economic Crimes, Burglary, Arson, Communications and Dispatch, to name just a few. He got to see things that even veteran patrol officers have yet to experience.
"I’ve seen so many more things than even some patrol officers,” said Gonzales. “I went to the property and evidence warehouse and I rode with a patrol officer who had been there for two years that had never seen it.”
Before deciding to apply for an internship, Gonzales scoured the Web sites of Texas police departments. He liked what he saw in Arlington – the wealth of information provided and the focus on community policing. He was one of nine competing for three open slots for the summer.
“One of the things I really picked up on was their philosophy is community policing; it really stands out,” said Gonzales. “Their Facebook page is very active and connects citizens to what’s going on in the community.”
Gonzales served with the Special Events Unit at Cowboy Stadium.The internship really opened his eyes to the daily operations of the police department and the many specialty assignments available.
“I love it,” said Gonzales. “I’ve just learned so much. In class, we learn things like the penal code. There are things you can’t learn in textbooks; they would have to be a million pages long. You learn how a police department works. I thought it was one big body, but it really is a large group of individuals making the body move.”
Gonzales began his internship with the communications department, learning the difference between call takers and dispatchers. “I thought people just answered the phone, but the call takers get the information and send it to dispatch. They send it to officers through CAD in the patrol car,” he said.
Gonzales also spent time in a unit that deals with crimes against children, which introduced him to the job of a forensic interviewer. He was able to observe an interview with a four-year-old victim of sexual abuse and the process used to collect evidence.
“It was very surprising and sad,” Gonzales recalled. “It was very eye opening as to what happens.”
In the Economic Crimes Unit, he saw firsthand the long, tedious work required to solve cases of fraud and identity theft. One case involved 100 people and each one had to be tracked down. “It really surprised me how much someone is affected by fraud or identity theft.”
Gonzales rolls up on an accident during night patrol. Gonzales spent time in the Burglary Unit, and toured the property and evidence warehouse. During his time with the arson investigators, he got to witness the department “blowing up some C4.” The second half of the summer will be spent as a liaison with other partners in the criminal justice system, including the U.S. Secret Service, the Dallas courts, and Tarrant County.
“The interns get a good understanding of how the department works together,” said Det. Terry Martin, who works in Personnel and Recruiting and oversees the internship program for the department. “It’s like a big corporation – with several specialized sections working together to achieve the same goal.”
Martin said Gonzales has impressed each division he has served.
“He is really unique,” said Det. Martin. “With his background, he will only be 20 years old when he graduates. He is one of the easiest people to work with. He came here solely to do the internship. He found a place to stay while working here and is willing to work any hours or assignments. He has a great attitude and has displayed a high level of integrity.”
While interns benefit from exposure to the various aspects of police work, the Arlington Police Department gets to take get a good look at potential applicants. Det. Martin said that the department usually winds up hiring one or two of the interns after the program, like Morgan Debert-Lacey, the last SHSU student that served in the department.
At the Crimes Against Children Unit, Gonzales checks up on runaways. “Sam’s got the reputation of having the best CJ program,” said Det. Martin. “I only know of two interns we’ve had from the school, and they both have been outstanding. They are super dedicated. We have several officers that work here that have graduated from SHSU.”
Gonzales shopped around for a good criminal justice program before deciding to attend SHSU following a year at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, which was near his hometown of Electra, Texas.
“It was very impressive,” said Gonzales. “When I was a senior in high school, I didn’t know if I wanted to work in law enforcement or to be a doctor or teacher. I decided I wanted to work in law enforcement. It is challenging and interesting, and I will be able to help people.”
SHSU has taught Gonzales how the criminal justice system works in correction, courts and law enforcement. Gonzales now sees the theory in practice on the job. For example, he learned about probable cause in class, and watched an officer type up the “meat and potatoes” of the case in Arlington to get an arrest warrant. In watching a video of an armed robbery of local store with a detective, Gonzales knew that aggravated robbery charges could be rendered because of his criminal law class.
“Majoring in CJ at SHSU has provided me with a nice strong criminal justice foundation which has given me something to constantly refer back to while interning,” said Gonzales. “I think it's cool getting to see some of the things I've learned in the classroom in action while interning here with APD.”
Gonzales wants to make his career first as a police officer and later as a federal agent. The internship helped set him on his future path.
“To get this internship, I had to fill out a personal history application and come in for an interview,” Gonzales said. “I also had to take a polygraph exam. It prepared me for what I will face later on.”
The College of Criminal Justice offers about 200 internships in federal, state and local law enforcement, corrections and victim services agencies as well as private businesses. Internships generally are taken during the last semester before graduation and include a full-time, 40-hour a week assignment. Undergraduates earn nine semester hour credits and graduate students earn six.
For more information on the program, contact the Internship Office at (936) 294-1659.