Categories: Personnel

Kaerels Fernandez discusses criminology as a profession

Criminology as a profession

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International Security Journal hears from Kaerels Fernandez, Criminologist, Lecturer and Panellist at the 2023 ISJ Leaders in Security Conference.

When undertaking the scientific study of crime and criminals, which defines criminology, it is worthy of including within the study, the motivations and consequences of crimes and perpetrators. Over the years, studying criminology has become multi-disciplinary, with the inclusion of topics such as statistics, sociology, law, psychology and even biology.

The notable author Khushwant Singh offered an opinion for an origin or cause for crime: “There is no crime in anyone’s blood any more than there is goodness in the blood of others. Criminals are not born. They are made by hunger, want and injustice.” This opinion is often used as a starting point for research into what causes an individual to undertake activities or acts that are deemed by society as criminal.

The utilisation of criminology opens our mind and intellect to a broad base of knowledge and situations. We also use criminology tools and techniques as drivers to assist with crime reduction strategies and efforts. A day in the life of a criminologist includes a range of activities such as interviews with victims, perpetrators, investigators and others with knowledge about a crime or societal factors influencing the behaviors.

Other activities include conducting research, reviewing your investigative notes or academic journals, dealing with behavioral science as sources of maintaining your professional development and learning new techniques. A useful activity is reviewing crime scenes and areas considered vulnerable to understand the criminal’s approach and execution of crime to better understand how society or an organisation may prevent such a crime occurring.

Ultimately, much of a criminologist’s work will involve report writing or preparing deliverables  based upon research as applied to a particular crime or criminal. A key element in the report writing is understanding your audience and adjusting your style, jargon and content to enable the reader to understand and comprehend your key messages easily and quickly.

For example, in a criminal investigation you may be required to present your analysis in a chronological order utilising a predetermined templated word document, whilst in a corporate setting you may be required or allowed to graphically represent the key messages and executive summary using PowerPoint or visual aids to enable CEO’s and other decision makers to approve plans to prevent a recurrence of an incident.

A distinct difference needs to be made between public and private sectors, as public sector is aimed at protecting society with their research and investigations are often aimed at determining who was responsible to punish the perpetrator or prevent that demographic from repeating the incident, whilst the private sector is often business focused; determining how the incident occurred to prevent its recurrence.

Criminologists should have competency in communication skills. This does not only require written and oral communication skills, but should also include personal and organisational communication as well as multi-media and information and communications technology – the application of these different competencies is much needed in today’s era.

The nature and types of crimes have expanded well beyond those in existence when criminology was a new discipline. Technology and growing international affairs and influences have spawned crimes such as fraud, large scale embezzlement and tax evasion as well as serious computer and identity theft and bias crimes. The multi-media presentation of reports, the policy dissemination either in print or non-print can best influence society – as a result, competencies needed to communicate better should be given focus.

We know that critical thinking skills form a prominent element of a criminologist’s job description. The analysis of information on crimes leads to conclusions about the causes of crime. As a criminologist, you focus on the psychological and sociological contributors to crime. In this work, you may look for ways in which the behavior differs from the accepted norms in society.

Face-to-face contact with criminals does not stand outside the realm of the job description. You may find a criminal offender willing to describe their family upbringing, the environment in which they were raised and incidents that may have triggered their decisions to pursue a crime. In many cases, your research into the individuals allows you to form a description of psychological, social, economic backgrounds and more.

Criminologists also offer their knowledge and training in sociology and psychology to present explanations and theories for why crimes occur and what leads a criminal offender to act. If one enters this profession, they may wear the hat of the profiler or consultant for criminal investigators, a social worker dealing with criminal defendants or a policymaker seeking to address the root causes of crime.

A strategic approach

So, how do we shape the criminology profession? There are a lot of strategies, so allow me to give you some insights and realisations as a criminologist.

Criminologists require training and, like in many professions, certification from an industry association, or in some jurisdictions, from the government regulator. Training and education such as a Diploma or Bachelor’s Degree provides the foundation for entry into the profession with a certification then providing evidence of professional development to an acceptable standard.

Curriculums should allow us to be exposed to the field of policymaking. As policymakers, we may be able to address what kind of approaches we are going to employ based on the circumstance. There may be a lot of things we have in mind, but if we master the policymaking activity, we will always be commended for the things we do.

Formal education should also allow us discussions embracing multi-cultural and multi-language experiences and linkages so we may become aware of international standards. As we render service to the profession, we may be able to give our proper responses to the different circumstances that we may encounter and examine broader social causes of crime and improve the overall human condition.

Our work may involve determining the effects of geopolitical or other long standing conflicts and psychological factors on how certain individuals may become radicalised to commit terrorist acts. As the industry matures, educational institutions should be enabled to allow criminologists to grow professional. It is, therefore, their mission and obligation to come up with different approaches.

Educational institutions and criminologists in the field must instil in the hearts and minds of every student the proper training, behaviour and mental preparation so we may be able to perform future jobs with excellence; instilling academic and professional integrity grounded in a solid ethical foundation. They should cultivate, in every student, curiosity and critical thinking through the fostering of success, professional and academic development and advancement.

Our educational programs should produce collaborative and meaningful scholarships that promote social responsibility through engagement with members of the community and the general public. We know that criminology does have some significant drawbacks or sources of frustration. Many of our assignments will take us to grotesque scenes where we will witness stark images of death or intense violence.

Beyond public agencies tasked with crime prevention, criminologists may reside among the halls of colleges and universities. Positions in academia include teaching or research in behavioral sciences, criminal justice, criminology, sociology and psychology departments. Moreover, an internship with a criminal justice agency, social worker, local or state social services or college with relevant academic departments can lead students on the criminology career path.

About the Author

Kaerels Fernandez is a Criminologist, Lecturer and former Cadet of the Philippine National Police Academy. Kaerels also assists the Philippines’ graduates of criminology achieve their Board Certification to meet the country’s regulatory requirements.

This article was originally published in the June 2023 edition of International Security Journal. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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