INA, Ill. (March 11, 2017) - Illinois State Police Trooper and Rend Lake College graduate Joe Anderton has the ability to offer a unique perspective to students in general as well as those looking to enter Criminal Justice fields.
Anderton began his time at RLC after graduating from Christopher High School in 1994. At Rend Lake College, Anderton wanted to focus on getting his general education requirements taken care of. He knew that he wanted to transfer on to a university, so getting his core classes completed took priority.
While studying at Rend Lake College, Anderton took advantage of one of the many student employment opportunities available, taking a position in the Admissions Office while he finished his associate degree.
Not content with that level of involvement, he went on to be elected as the student representative to the RLC Board of Trustees in 1995.
“I was the first one to actually have the advisory vote,” Anderton said. “We approved the construction for the pool. So, that was our big accomplishment.”
From RLC, Anderton transferred to Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Based on his previous experience as a student worker, RLC reached back out to Anderton during his time at SIU and offered him a full-time job in the Admissions Office while he pursued his undergraduate degree.
“It was a great opportunity to be a student worker. It’s a position where the college really went out of its way to work around my schedule to ensure that I could keep taking my classes. Even when they offered me the full-time Admissions position, RLC was really great about making sure I was able to continue my education,” he explained.
“One of the things I really got out of working in Admissions was getting to interact with so many different types of people. That’s something that comes into play almost every day in law enforcement. It was wonderful to already have some of that experience in a professional setting.”
The training he gleaned from his time with the Admissions Office wasn’t the only thing Anderton carried over later in life from his time at RLC. He used his experience as a student trustee to help guide the lives of young students in his hometown by being elected to the Christopher School Board.
He explained that both the work experience and his time as a student trustee helped to humble him by teaching him new things every day. Getting to see day-to-day activities and taking part in RLC board meetings offered Anderton a unique look at all the minutia that it takes to operate and institution.
“You got this really deep look at things like finances and grants. I got to see how federal and state laws and regulations influenced all kinds of things, from budgets to even how we had to interact with people. That was really an eye-opening experience,” he stated.
Anderton started his law enforcement career as an Illinois State Police patrol trooper based out of Peoria. In 2001, he transferred back to Southern Illinois, working midnights on patrol. He then applied for, and received, a position with the ISP’s Training Bureau.
“So, basically now I’m assigned to the Training Academy,” he said. “Our section oversees all the breathalyzer testing in the State of Illinois, all the chemical testing with breath, blood and urine, we certify all the labs, we certify all the breath-testing equipment in the state and take care of all the training as part of the ISP’s Alcohol and Substance Testing Section.”
In addition to all that, Anderton teaches new recruits control and arrest tactics, DUI law, medical marijuana law and serves as a TAC (teach, assess and correct) officer for new classes of recruits.
Being a TAC officer is fundamentally an analog to being a military drill instructor. Anderton described the academy as being a very military-like setting.
“The first couple weeks of the academy is really intense, lots of stress. We are really just trying to get them oriented into the academy lifestyle. So, I’m up there for a few weeks yelling at them and running them around,” Anderton said with a chuckle.
Anderton picked the Illinois State Police because his father was a trooper. With the heritage in law enforcement, he knew from a young age that that’s where he wanted to be when he grew up.
He expressed that the biggest advice he can offer aspiring law enforcement officers is staying out of trouble and keeping your grades up. He said that it is a demanding field that requires a significant amount of self-discipline and control. He also encouraged those interested in law enforcement at any level to be engaged in their community.
“Community relations are a big deal in law enforcement. You have to be able to bridge that gap between law enforcement and civilians. I just have to stress again though, you have to stay out of trouble. Use your head, and go and get that degree. You are going to need a degree if you want to advance.”
To that end, Anderton remains a firm advocate for a community college education.
“If anyone goes to a four-year institution and passes up a community college they are making a mistake in my opinion. Outside of just the financial reasons to do it, people coming out of high school don’t always understand the culture shock of going to college. It’s such a huge change. You go from being dictated what you are going to do for eight hours a day to a place where it’s all on you. Coming to a place like RLC and finding that self-motivation in a more comfortable setting is huge.”
And, for all those future officers who turn their noses up at general education requirements, Anderton says embrace everything you are taught. He says more of that is applicable to the job than you might think.
“You need to focus in that speech class. Think of how much of the job is communicating with people. Not only did speech help me be able to talk in front of a crowd, but public speaking is vital in court proceedings. Information must be relayed to the jury in a simple yet professional manner. Also, every class that requires writing projects and essay tests are some of the best prep classes for law enforcement. Everything we do is documented in a report. The ability to write clear and concise reports is a must.”
As for Math and Science, Anderton says there is a lot more of that on the force than you might think. Knowing and understanding how technology like radar and breathalyzers work are a key piece of doing the job. He cited crash scene reconstruction as an example of how officers utilize physics on a daily basis.
For more information about RLC’s Criminal Justice Program, contact Ron Meek at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1239, or email [email protected]. You can also visit: https://www.rlc.edu/programs-and-degrees/113-criminal-justice.