MS in Criminal Justice

Karen Maline, 2021

Karen Maline

Describe your practicum project:

My research capstone white paper, "How Officer Attitudes Impact Implementation of a Pre-Arrest Drug Diversion Program," studied how officer attitudes about a pre-arrest diversion program affected their willingness to participate in the program, and describes the obstacles to and "facilitators" for obtaining officer support for pre-arrest diversion programs for individuals with substance use disorder. Being able to navigate the obstacles and leverage the facilitators helps to secure officer buy-in for these programs.

How did your academic experiences in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences impact you? 

I've been working for years in the field of criminal justice, but never at the level I wanted to. This program made an enormous impact on me. It gave me the confidence to excel at my profession and be an actual changemaker--not just do my job. Before I started the program, I was asked to do case studies, but was very timid because I didn't know what a case study was. Now I'm co-writing an entire series on first responder diversion for the Bureau of Justice Assistance--five publications, each of which contains five case studies--and providing technical assistance to sites around the country on how to get officer buy-in for alternatives to arrest and co-responder models. I felt like an imposter before starting this program, but the information I learned about implementation science, evaluation, systematic reviews, and using evidence to make policy and build best practices has given me the foundation I need to feel confident as a professional in my field.

What accomplishment(s) during your time at Mason are you most proud of?

I feel accomplished about being able to use ArcGIS and Excel as analysis tools. I had no idea Excel was so powerful. I'm also proud that I was able to maintain my GPA while holding down a full-time job and helping to start a new national organization on deflection and pre-arrest diversion, The Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative (PTACC).

Are there faculty or staff members who made a difference during your Mason career? Please give an example of this impact if possible. 

I work at a major policing association and conduct training and technical assistance on how to get officer buy-in for pre-arrest diversion and deflection programs. Dr. Cynthia Lum taught me more about the culture of policing in one semester than I could have learned from years on the job. Her class was comprehensive and focused on evidence over instinct--but that there is still value in having experience and instinct. We read so many valuable papers on hot spot policing and other practices, and the importance of being able to translate research for practitioners. This culminated in learning about the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix and the Evidence-Based Policing Playbook. Other professors who made a difference during my academic career at Mason are Dr. Charlotte Gill and Dr. Faye Taxman. Their classes have shaped my professional life immensely.

What advice would you give to an incoming cohort of graduate students?

I got great advice when I started, but no one could have prepared us to go "all-virtual." Hopefully those days are almost behind us. I would tell incoming students to meet and befriend as many of their classmates as possible and to help each other because everyone has different strengths. Also, be as organized as possible and use the resources the school has to offer, whether they are social or for support. I would tell them that, if they can, ask family, friends, and colleagues at work for support if they need it. As an older student with a family, I was able to lean on my family, friends, and professional network for additional support, and they came through for me!

What are your current career plans following graduation? What are your long-term career goals?

I don't have any plans to change my career. I started a new "job" within my organization last year and plan to continue doing that. Earning my degree made me better at what I do and gave me the confidence to be a stronger voice within my field. I feel more self-assured when working with communities who are partnering with police to start new programs, and when working with law enforcement agencies who are training their officers to implement new practices to help the vulnerable citizens in their communities. I hope to get better and what I do and to continue to reach a broader audience.