For some, the depictions of Hollywood are the closest they get to understanding the federal criminal justice system. U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren has set out to change that.
“People see these TV shows with the FBI busting in to save the day and federal agents playing oversize roles and that’s not always accurate,” said Melgren. “The law enforcement system is not understood well by the public.”
Last spring, Melgren introduced the U.S. Attorney’s Citizens Academy for the first time, at Wichita State University. A “pilot project” of sorts, the four-session course showcased the ins and outs of the Kansas federal criminal justice system.
“It went well,” said Melgren. “That’s when I decided to feature a six-session fall course at Washburn University.”
The academy will meet for the first time from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 at the Washburn University School of Law. Sessions will then continue on Oct. 16, Oct. 23, Oct. 30, Nov. 6 and Nov. 13.
Melgren explained that the classes will feature presentations ranging from major drug trafficking to white collar fraud, terrorism to gangs and violent crime.
“I want to provide people with more specific, fact-based info on how we go about enforcing these topics,” said Melgren.
While the Citizens Academy is offered free of charge, only two-dozen spots were available. After reviewing the required application Melgren, along with a panel, selected the participants.
Several factors were involved in the decision-making process. Applicants had to certify that they would be able to attend all of the provided courses. The applicant’s involvement in the community was equally important.
“Aside from their reason for wanting to attend, we were interested in whether the specific applicant could take the information provided in the course and utilize it in their community,” said Melgren.
the information provided in the course and utilize it in their community,” said Melgren.
All six of the courses will be taught by expert representatives from: the U.S. Attorney’s Office; Washburn University School of Law; the FBI; the Drug Enforcement Agency; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Postal Inspection Service and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Participants will also have the opportunity to meet some of the men and women of the federal judicial system.
Melgren, who obtained his undergraduate degree from WSU and his law degree from Washburn, explained that the chosen location for the Citizens Academy is just a coincidence. This being said, both universities were very enthusiastic about participating in the sponsorship of the education-oriented course.
“When I started this idea, I wanted to offer the academy in the major metropolitan areas of Kansas,” said Melgren. “With Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita being the only three, I ultimately felt that latter two would be the best choices.”
While the deadline to participate in the fall session of the Citizens Academy has passed, Melgren plans to offer the course annually. The spring session is scheduled to take place in Wichita and the fall session is scheduled to continue taking place in Topeka. For further information, visit www.usdoj.gov/usao/ks/citizen_academy/Web1.html.