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April 20, 2023 | By: Deann Alford

Reposted from:

Kirk V. White arrived at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas, in the fall of 2011 on a football scholarship with plans to someday become a dentist.

But on a lark, the Dallas native decided to try something different: he enrolled in an introductory criminal justice class taught by law enforcement career veteran Bruce K. Stayments.

The course so impressed White that he forgot about dentistry and embraced his future as a peace officer.

While White, 30, enjoyed SAGU’s coursework, reflecting on the bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement he earned in 2016, White noted the impact the department’s head had on him, both at school and beyond.

“Outside the classroom is where the spiritual side comes out — the way (Stayments) builds you up, how he treats people, helps them move forward in their careers,” says White, whose father is a former pastor. “At other schools, you go to class, and once you’re out of the class, you don’t hear from the professor.”

Stayments, 62, served 25 years on his hometown’s police force in Elmira, New York. He aspired to someday become a college professor, so to that end earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice. After retiring from the force as the city’s police chief, in 2008 he served a year with a State Department division in Afghanistan mentoring the Afghanistan’s national police, a tour of service he describes as the icing on the cake of his police career.

“I got blown up and shot at, but it was the best year of my life,” Stayments says. On his first day at work, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated, leaving a 30-foot hole in the street and killing 48 people around him.

In Afghanistan, a human resources officer who was herself an Assemblies of God missionary kid with a degree from SAGU, noted Stayments’ résumé included that he is a licensed Assemblies of God minister. That put the school south of Dallas on his radar. As his Afghanistan tour ended in 2009, he inquired about the university — just as the school prepared to unveil a criminal justice degree program.

SAGU named him as its department head. Today the criminal justice program has an average of 60 students majoring in the field.

“We’re launching a unique Christian worldview out into the secular marketplace to influence and be the best practitioners they can be,” Stayments says. “I want them to get the job they want. That’s the biggest reward.”

He describes White as a shining star. White went on to become officer of the year in the police department of the Dallas suburb Red Oak, where he’s served for seven years.

In contrast to White, who discovered criminal justice only once he enrolled at SAGU, Reagan Resendez, 25, of Plainview, Texas, always wanted to be a first responder: firefighter, emergency medical technician, or in law enforcement. Working her junior and senior years with SAGU security confirmed she had chosen the right major. After serving as a school marshal for the Waxahachie Independent School District for two years, last year the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office hired her. In February, she graduated from the police academy and began working as a deputy sheriff.

She says that while SAGU criminal justice classes taught her the basics through hands-on training, such as interviewing people, proper handcuffing, defensive tactics, criminal investigations, and how police systems operate, the program taught her also to have empathy and compassion for people. “It isn’t just about making sure everybody is following the laws, but about treating people correctly,” she says.

While Angel R. Murray, 24, of Jackson, Mississippi, is the daughter of a police officer, she didn’t grow up aspiring to follow her dad’s lead into law enforcement. She enrolled in SAGU as a business major, but her first semester discovered it didn’t fit her.

“I met professor Stayments and fell in love with everything” in the program, Murray says. “At that point I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Murray says what particularly impressed her regarding SAGU preparing her for police work was Stayments’ commitment to education on campus and beyond. He hosted at his house an annual barbecue for criminal justice majors, who Murray regarded almost like a family.

Students target-practiced on Stayments’ own shooting range. He held after-hours classes for students who met the state age requirements to get a license to carry a firearm. A colleague of Stayments, who teaches evenings at a community college police academy and is a reserve deputy in Ellis County, brought a sheriff’s office truck for students to perform mock felony traffic stops.

“It was very hands-on and I’m a hands-on learner so that really benefited me,” she says. “Professor Stayments always went above and beyond.”

The kindness of the people in Waxahachie moved her to remain in Texas rather than return to Mississippi. After she graduated in 2021, she worked six months as a jailer for the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office in Fort Worth. Today she’s an officer with the Waxahachie Police Department.

SAGU-educated law enforcement alumni are among the program’s guest speakers. What Stayments describes as the proudest day of his life occurred two years ago when around 80 SAGU criminal justice alumni returned, each in uniform.

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