University Communications

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Partners in Crime

Spending their entire lives together, three sets of identical twins found their way to St. Cloud State to pursue careers in law enforcement.

Identical twins are a rare occurrence. Seeing identical twins around the campus of St. Cloud State University campus, even rarer.

For the past year, the Department of Criminal Justice has three sets in the program at the same time.

Finding their way to study criminal justice at St. Cloud State, Jamie and Jessica Bird, Bobby and Bryan Johnson, and Matthew and Terry Vertina share many similarities with their twin as well as among this peer group.

They all have a drive and passion to help people and serve the communities they work for, and they are getting there … together.

Jamie and Jessica Bird

Jamie and Jessica BirdJamie and Jessica Bird, born one minute apart, are identical mirror twins from Barnum, Minnesota. Active in high school sports – hockey, volleyball, track, and golf – each hold a special place in their hearts for their time on the ice playing high school hockey.

It was in high school that Jamie and Jessica discovered they wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement. With an aunt and uncle – both police officers in the Twin Cities – they jumped at the opportunity for a ride-along, which left them hooked.

“I started to get curious every time I saw someone pulled over or when there was an accident,” Jamie said.
Looking forward to their career goals of becoming police officers, choosing St. Cloud State was easy. There is a family history here with their parents earning their degrees along with their aunt, and current police officer, Justina Bird, a 1997 graduate of St. Cloud State University.

In high school, Jamie and Jessica were afforded the opportunity to attend a high performance hockey camp at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. “I fell in love with what the campus offered and where it was located,” Jessica said.

Jamie and Jessica will graduate with degrees in criminal justice after attending the law enforcement training skills program next summer. Jamie has her sights set on becoming a K9 police officer and Jessica wants to land in Northern Minnesota and work up the chain of command.

Bobby and Bryan JohnsonBobby and Bryan Johnson

Growing up in Fridley, Bobby and Bryan Johnson were bitten by the law enforcement bug early.

They witnessed their older brother, Shawn Murphy ’14 ‘18, earn degrees in Criminal Justice and Public Safety Executive Leadership from St. Cloud State and go on to work for the Fridley Police Department. Murphy encouraged them to participate in the Anoka County Police Explorer program at the age of 14.

From day one as Explorers, they were hooked. “I don’t think I would enjoy doing anything besides law enforcement,” said Bryan.

The program is designed to introduce participants to careers, life skills, service learning, character education, and leadership experience. Bobby and Bryan received basic law enforcement training, assisted officers in daily duties, and participated in community events.

Born six minutes before Bryan – “The best six minutes of my life,” he jokes – Bobby’s career goals include becoming a K9 officer and eventually SWAT. Bryan, who describes himself and his brother as hard-working, has his eyes set on a larger agency such as Minneapolis or St. Paul. To gain experience before graduation, Bobby and Bryan volunteered as reserve officers for the Fridley Police Department.

Graduating December 2020 with degrees in criminal justice and having completed and passed the law enforcement skills training, Bobby and Bryan have passed the P.O.S.T. licensure exam and are on their way to serving communities. Bryan began working at the Centennial Lakes Police Department in mid-October and Bobby is in the application/hiring process of two different Twin Cities departments.

Matthew and Terry Vertina

Matthew and Terry VertinaMatthew and Terry Vertina are the newest of the twin criminal justice majors, at the beginning of their sophomore year. At only one minute apart in age (Matthew is older), they too have developed a strong interest in law enforcement.

Born and raised in Ramsey, the Vertina brothers graduated from Anoka Senior High School where they participated in an Explorers program as well as robotics. Upon meeting the Johnson twins for the first time, they connected the dots that they replaced Bobby and Bryan in the Anoka County Explorer’s Program.

Arriving to St. Cloud State in August of 2019, the Matthew and Terry jumped right in. They knew they wanted to study criminal justice. In Crime and Justice in America (CJS 111), they were introduced to guest speakers and members of the St. Cloud Police Department (SCPD) who spoke about the employment opportunities for current students.

Connecting with staff from the St. Cloud Police department, Matthew and Terry are working there, building their experience and resume.

Matthew is an office aide having, started in the property and evidence room.

“I am getting great hands on experience,” said Matthew. “In both assignments I had to learn how to deal with the public and how to balance the organization’s goals.” Every day he observes how police are helping people.

Terry, too, was able to land a job at the SCPD in the parking enforcement division as a community service officer.

He said it has been a positive experience thus far and he is getting a close-up look on how a police department functions and interacts with the community.

About Identical Twins

Identical, or monozygotic, twins have the same genetic makeup, formed after a single fertilized egg cell divides in half.

A University of Minnesota study on twins is known globally for illustrating the similarities in behavior, interests, and intelligence of identical twins raised apart from one another.

Associate Professor of Psychology Joseph Melcher reminds us that identical twins are basically clones. “Identical twins typically have high degrees of common interests, skills, and aptitudes. Thus, if one is drawn to criminal justice, both will probably be,” he said.

Professor Joseph Melcher does the math:

Statistically, the universal probability of having identical twins is 1 out of every 285 births. Out of 285 births, there are 286 kids, two of whom are an identical pair (2/286 = .0069). Using spring 2020 as an example, Criminal Justice majors made up approximately 2.2 percent of the St. Cloud State undergraduate population.

Looking at the entire university, the probability works out to have 40 pairs of identical twins at any given time. If criminal Justice has three pair that is 3 out of 40 (7.5 percent), that is three times higher than would be expected by chance, assuming the identical twins are equally distributed throughout undergraduate programs.

For these six and all criminal justice students looking for a career in law enforcement, their prospects are good. Entering the field with a bachelor’s degree along with the thorough education mandated by the Minnesota Peace Officers Standards and Training Board (POST) makes them a desirable candidate with the ability to grow personally and professionally down the road.

With over 15 years’ experience as a law enforcement officer, Professor Shawn Williams can see a huge benefit to the hiring agency to hire identical twins. “It would be assumed they were cut from the same cloth,” Williams said, “Same demeanor same morals and values.”

Story by Danae Swanson.