Western Illinois University’s department of law enforcement and justice administration (LEJA) will be renamed the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration, effective July 1, according to College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) Dean Bonnie Smith-Skripps. Current LEJA chair Darrell Ross will serve as the school’s director.
“The name change to School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration better reflects the professional nature of our program. The LEJA department, which is the largest criminal justice program in the state of Illinois and the fourth largest in the U.S., has long been recognized for the strength of its undergraduate, master’s and certificate programs. Converting to a school places the department on a level playing field with other schools of criminal justice with large enrollments,” Smith-Skripps noted. “The school designation is also essential as we seek approval to begin offering a doctorate degree in law enforcement and justice administration.”
The undergraduate program was founded in 1969 and was designed to meet the need for better-educated and trained police identified by the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control Act. The department was first known as law enforcement administration and was housed in the College of Applied Sciences. According to Smith-Skripps, the program quickly grew to be one of the premier undergraduate law enforcement programs in the United States, and by the late 1970s, the department’s minor in security administration, with its security management emphasis, had been identified as one of the top four programs in the country.
In 1976, the Illinois Board of Higher Education approved the Master of Arts in Law Enforcement Administration, and within a few years, the graduate program had expanded beyond the borders of Illinois to include students from as far away as Africa, Europe and Asia. Since its inception, the master’s program has certified more than 150 criminal justice supervisors and graduated more than 600 students.
Eighteen years later, the department moved to the College of Education and Human Services and changed its name to law enforcement and justice administration. By the time of the transfer, nearly 5,000 students had graduated from the program, and in 1998, the department began offering upper-division courses at the campus in the Quad Cities. As of Fall 2007, more than 2,000 undergraduate majors and minors and 200 master’s students were pursuing LEJA degrees.
“In just under 40 years, LEJA has become the most popular major on Western’s campus, and it attracts more transfer students than any other program. Since 2000, student enrollment has grown by 60 percent,” Smith-Skripps added.
Western’s School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration will continue as a unit within COEHS. Students can major in law enforcement and earn minors in security administration, law enforcement, fire administration and homeland security.
“LEJA’s goal is to be the best program in the nation,” Smith-Skripps added. “We have an excellent program that continues to meet the educational and professional needs of students aspiring to work in this field.”