Training Firefighters, EMTs, & Peace Officers

The Legacy of COD’s Criminal Justice Program

For over 22 years, the Criminal Justice program has drawn service-minded students to career paths reserved for the bold and the brave. Once they graduate, these dedicated young adults enter a demanding line of work where they become today’s true heroes as firefighters, emergency medical technician specialists and members of law enforcement, each leaving a long-lasting impression on our Valley and beyond.

Established in 2001, COD’s highly lauded Public Safety Academy was the vision of Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle who enlisted expert volunteers to share real-life insights and provide lifesaving, on-the-job expertise. As one of the first experts onboarded, former Captain of the Los Angeles Police Department Clayton Mayes was the Academy’s first Director. He continues to advance programming as a Career and Technical Education Lead. Mayes has since joined forces with Neil Lingle, Director, Public Safety Academy; Stanley Henry, Chair of the Public Safety Department; and Doug Benoit, Dean of Applied Sciences and Business, to bring their extensive knowledge to the program, which turns out some of the most qualified recruits the Valley has ever seen.

The Associate of Science in Criminal Justice degree prepares students academically to perform intense and varied job requirements. Taught exclusively by part-time faculty who are subject-matter experts, courses impart skills training in social awareness, cultural sensitivity, concepts of law and the physical and mental fortitude necessary for field work. Upon completing Module One certification, students see a 50% success rate in being hired.

To encourage the next generation of public servants, an innovative pre-collegiate program invites 10th graders to begin training. Each year, a motivated new crop of young people are excited to fast-track their studies, complete the Academy and secure jobs. Lingle shares the details: “Between the 10th and 12th grades, students complete nine units in Criminal Justice, Fire Technology and an EMT course. Upon graduation, students are eligible to attend the COD Police or Fire Academies. Successful completion leads to exciting job opportunities.”

As a major contribution to the college, Mayes developed a transferable degree to four-year universities, including California State San Bernardino, making COD graduates even more marketable. Some students love active duty and their careers soar from Sergeant to Captain; others go on to law school.

“There’s a tremendous need for public servants,” he adds. “Yet the Fire Academy costs over $6,000 and Peace Officer training is nearly $4,000. This can be cost-prohibitive, especially because long, rigorous school days mean students are unable to work a job. The Public Safety Academy relies upon the strong partnership with the COD Foundation and generous donor support to provide financial assistance to support both student and program success.”

Clayton Mayes, COD’s Career and Technical Education Head and Former Captain of the Los Angeles Police Department

There are hundreds of alumni stories of those who have achieved success and ones who have learned life lessons along the way.

“I wanted to be an officer all of my life,” says City of Palm Springs Motorcycle Officer Jennifer Calleros. “At 16, she was part of the Explorer program’s simulations, searches and physical fitness. She went on to study at COD where she had the honor of training with fallen officer Jermain Gibson. “His death impacted me significantly and brought attention to the reality of the duty I was being called to perform.”

“After completing Modules 2 and 3 at COD, I was hired on at COD as a Security Officer. On my first day, Lieutenant Booth from the Palm Springs Police Department was conducting informal interviews on campus, so I decided to sit in.” He hired her 6 months later with the caveat that she would need to pass the Riverside Sherriff Academy. “I knew my intensive training at COD had fully prepared me, and I easily excelled through the Academy.”

In 2015, Calleros joined the Palm Springs force and was trained by fallen officer Gil Vega, who passed 18 months later. “It’s a harsh reality of the job to put down your life to protect others, but it has been rewarding in so many ways. My job prepares me for life.

As one of the few female Motorcycle Officers, she regulates traffic and investigates collisions, many of them fatal. Nine months into her position, she lost three family members to a collision.

“Because I know firsthand the pain of losing loved ones in an accident, I have a true understanding of what families go through, and I am more passionate about protecting our community. Officer Vega always told me to speak to the public like they were my cousin because people cannot relate to robots. I carry the spirit of my life experience in the ways I work with people.”

Calleros now works with students ages 14-21 as a Senior Advisor in the Explorer program. She hopes to become a Sergeant.

By enrolling in the Criminal Justice program, brave women and men like Calleros embark on a mission to better countless lives. We salute the program that trains new talent to serve and protect.

To learn how you can support this dynamic program, please email Catherine Abbott, Executive Director at

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