Finding Colleges that Offer Law Enforcement, Making Dreams Come True
Zach Foster of Brownsburg, Indianapolis, spent most of his childhood playing cops and robbers with his cousin, Jason. Like many young boys, they had dreams of growing up and working for the same police department, fighting for justice side by side. But unlike many childhood dreams that are here today and gone tomorrow, Zach and Jason never lost sight of their vision.
After graduating from Grace College with a degree in criminal justice, Foster’s dream actually came true.
Finding Colleges that Offer Law Enforcement
Foster attended Covenant Christian High School in Indianapolis. As graduation approached, he started thinking about college. While police officers are not required to have a college degree, Foster had three years before turning 21, the minimum age to join the academy. So he started searching for colleges that offer law enforcement degrees.
Grace College’s criminal justice program quickly became his top choice when he learned of the opportunity to get his degree in three years, allowing him to join the academy at 21. After a tour of campus, he was sold.
Foster’s experience at Grace was foundational on many levels.
Behavioral Science professors such as Dr. Arney and Professor Rebecca Soto opened Foster’s eyes to see law enforcement in a new way.
“They guided me to look at criminal justice through a Christian perspective,” said Foster. “I don’t know how you could do this job outside of knowing Christ. With all of the death that you see on the job, how would you go about your life on a day-to-day basis? The education I received at Grace reminds me daily that there is a greater purpose.”
Foster looks back and appreciates the way that Dr. Arney made the classroom a dynamic learning community. She invited many guest speakers into the classroom and took the students on field trips to correctional facilities and juvenile detention centers. These experiences brought his education to life and exposed him to the depth and breadth of the law enforcement field.
“Many colleges that offer law enforcement lean heavily on the theory or on the application. We work hard to make our program a blend of both,” said Arney.
The criminal justice program at Grace definitely helped me figure out the different avenues I wanted to go into, particularly sociology and victimology,” said Foster. “It’s been cool to see how my education has assisted me in real-life domestic cases.”
Foster could also rattle off a number of professors outside of the School of Behavioral Sciences who impacted him including Dr. Rata, associate dean of the School of Ministry Studies, who helped him think through the spiritual implications of a career in law enforcement and Associate Professor of Spanish, Benjamin Navarro, whose Spanish classes have helped him communicate with Spanish speakers while on the job.
“These professors really distinguished my time at Grace,” says Foster.
Experience is Key
While on campus, Foster interviewed and was hired to serve on the Campus Safety Team. This role required him to monitor campus, check buildings, and identify suspicious activity to ensure students’ safety.
“It was a great experience that opened up other avenues for me,” Foster said of his experience.
One of those avenues was working with the Kosciusko County Reserve Academy. During his time as a reserve, Foster logged more than 375 hours of ride alongs with the Winona Lake and Warsaw Police Departments. All of which, he received college credits for.
“There is no doubt, Zach’s ride-along hours set him apart in the application process,” says Arney. “He was always one of those students that didn’t settle for good enough. He wanted to wring every drop of opportunity out of what his college experience had to offer.”
Not only did the Reserve Academy boost Foster’s resume, but it also expanded his network. He made many long-time friends within the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department, Winona Lake Police Department, and Warsaw Police Department.
Making Dreams a Reality
Although Foster was a shoo-in for a job in Kosciusko County, he decided to go back home and make the dreams of serving alongside his cousin a reality. In June of 2018, he started his six-month academy training with the Indianapolis Police Department, recognized nationally for its top-notch training.
By the end of the five-phased Field Training Officer program, Foster graduated at the top of his class. This gave him priority in selecting a shift and district, and Fosters’ choice was a surprising one.
“I chose the East District middle shift as my top pick — the busiest and most violent shift in Indiana and the four surrounding states with the exception of Chicago. Although my family and my wife, Katie, were not thrilled at my decision, I felt as though that was where God was leading me,” said Foster.
Foster’s confirmation that he was in the right place came when he was selected as East District’s first choice in return.
Foster’s time in the East District has allowed him to get a lot of training and specialties which allow him to take in-the-field DNA samples and fingerprints. He’s also earned his bike certification and has been selected to serve on the DUI task force.
While he enjoys the work he does, Foster does not deny that the job is not easy.
“You have to give it 100% every day,” said Foster. “You can do everything right, and still end up being shot and killed,” he explained.
He speaks from experience, having lost his zone partner, Breann Leath, on the job last year. These tragedies are not unusual in the police force, and Foster recognizes that with every hopeless situation, he has the opportunity to point people to the hope he has in Christ.
“You must really stick to your faith,” said Foster. “It might cost you things. Especially in a public view. However, through everything, I know God is still moving and working,” he said.
While Foster’s childhood dreams have come true, he continues to dream about the future.
Looking forward, he hopes to continue his training and explore different avenues in the field such as detective work.
Whatever it is that he dreams of next, Foster knows this:
“God has given me a platform to further His kingdom, be a witness to my fellow officers, and shine a light in the darkness.”
This is what we call the ways of Grace.