Law and Order - Scandinavian Style

Monday, April 3, 2006

In a Copenhagen conference room, they enjoyed sumptuous pastries as Denmark's deputy chief prosecutor shared an insider's overview of emerging challenges to their criminal justice system. In Stockholm they went inside one of Scandinavia's notoriously posh prisons. In Oslo top police administrators led them on a tour of Norway's National Criminal Investigation Service headquarters and laboratories – complete with up-close demonstrations of the latest technology in crime scene investigation.

Scandanavia Study Abroad ProgramThe eight students in SCSU Professor John Campbell's Scandinavia study-abroad program this past August were treated as honored guests by highly placed hosts in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo. Wherever the students went, the FBI resumé of their instructor opened doors to Scandinavia's most prestigious legal minds and crime fighters.

"It was great to see how other criminal justice systems work, and it was nice being over there to see it first-hand instead of learning about it in a classroom," said Aimee Fink, Coon Rapids, a 2005 graduate who will apply her four-plus years of experience as a student public safety officer on campus and her degree in elective studies with a criminal justice emphasis to law school.

The course was designed to give students, while earning six credits, a glimpse into the inner workings of foreign criminal justice systems and to help them analyze how they differ from those back home. Classroom time was a mix of student-produced research, expert presentations and Campbell's interactive lectures.

Students learned that throughout Scandinavia, police and the courts cooperate regularly with each other. The volume of crime and level of violence, they learned, are significantly lower than in the United States and many other parts of the world.

Alessandra Giraldi, Denmark's deputy chief prosecutor, and her counterparts in Sweden and Norway offered statistics about the relative safety of Scandinavia's streets. "We have about 50 murders a year," Ole Hermansen, head of Norway's Tactical Investigation Division, told the students. "We have a 95 percent solution rate for homicides." Campbell added that the figure compares with a 67 percent solution rate for murders in the United States.

Throughout their tour, his students became well aware how Campbell's reputation as a 27-year veteran of the FBI precedes him. "Without his background, we would never have met half of the people who gave us presentations," said Bryan Canfield, a junior history major from Rochester, who appreciated this comparative glimpse into the cultures and criminal justice systems of Scandinavian countries.

During his distinguished career, Campbell headed the FBI's behavioral unit when it pioneered the techniques of criminal profiling and was dean of the FBI Academy. At SCSU, Campbell's anecdotes, insights and associations with international criminal justice leaders heighten the quality and effectiveness of his teaching.

In his classroom Campbell also draws from the rich material in the books he's worked on. He co-wrote "Into the Minds of Madmen: How the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit Revolutionized Crime Investigation" and co-edited "Profilers: Leading Investigators Take You Inside the Criminal Mind."

In addition to their exposure to legal experts and criminal justice facilities in Scandinavia, students broadened their knowledge of history and culture in the land of the midnight sun. They toured the Swedish Parliament, learned about American diplomatic corps careers at the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen, and visited art and history museums as well as famed tourist attractions. They slept in hostels and police academy dorms and rode scenic rail routes through some of the most spectacular mountain and sea vistas in the world.

"The experience was excellent," Canfield said. "I'm a history major, and I benefited greatly from the trips to museums, and our meetings helped me understand a lot more about how their society operates. It influenced the way I see other cultures – and how America does things in comparison."

After their first night in downtown Copenhagen, students gathered in the lounge of their hostel to share experiences. One group talked about how their restaurant server conversed easily in English and was fluent in five other languages as well, a stark reminder of Americans' limited language skills.

Campbell's three-week study tour was one of nine short-term international programs SCSU students participated in last spring and summer. The opportunity to earn credits while exploring a new part of the world for a few weeks gives many more students their only option for study abroad. For many, leaving families, jobs and other responsibilities behind for an entire semester is not feasible or affordable. "If it hadn't been a summer short trip, I wouldn't have been able to do it," Fink said.

Criminal justice graduate student Jennifer Lampert, a native of Pierz and a corrections officer at the St. Cloud Correctional Facility, agreed that while it was advantageous to see how foreign prison systems work, the lasting friendships formed during student travel are invaluable. "Everyone should do this," said Lampert, who also participated in a criminal justice short-term course in Croatia under the leadership of Professor Dick Andzenge. "You never get these times and these opportunities back."

Short-term study-abroad opportunities include winter and spring break, intersession and summer term courses in Australia, Canada, China, Croatia, England, France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Poland, South Africa and Tanzania. For details go to www.stcloudstate.edu/studyabroad.

In preparation for their reunion Aug. 11-12, alumni of the Alnwick, England, study-abroad program were invited to submit favorite memories and photos from their experience.

This story reflects some of the comments included in the dozens of enthusiastic responses from participants eager to reminisce about their transcendent coming-of-age experience at "The Castle." Although there is not room on these pages to include all of the stories and photos, all are published in their entirety at www.stcloudstate.edu/studyabroad/alumni.

- Marsh Shoemaker

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