UVM Police Services visits Criminology class

March 22, 2024
Cat Cutillo
Social Media and Community Content Specialist

Two employees from the University of Vermont Police Services visited Director of Criminology Krista Billingsley’s honors class called “Theories of Crime, Justice, and Race” on Tuesday. All Criminology majors and minors were also encouraged to attend the presentation. 

Deputy Chief Jay Lawson and Allison Buckley ’22 from UVM Police Services (Photo by Cat Cutillo/Saint Michael’s College)

Allison Buckley ’22 works in an accreditation role for UVM Police Services as the CALEA Coordinator (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies), and Jay Lawson is the Deputy Chief for UVM Police Services. Both visitors shared their experiences of what led them to careers in law.

Buckley graduated from St. Mike’s two years ago as a Business Administration major and immediately got a job in the admissions office at St. Mike’s. She said she quickly began to question what her calling was. 

“For me, that was law enforcement,” Buckley said. “I had a dad who was a trooper for 27 years. It was deeply rooted in the fact that I was a cop’s daughter, and I was proud of that.”  

Lawson earned a degree in sociology and after graduation moved to Boston to work in marketing and sales. He made a career change and enlisted in the police academy but said he still uses many of the customer service skills he gained early on.  

“I approach everyday with policing with the business mentality that the ‘customer is always right,’ that our brand is of importance, that our product has to be top-notch, and if we’re not evaluating our processes we’re failing,” Lawson said. 

Lawson spent two decades as a lieutenant and a field operations commander. He retired from the Burlington Police Department two years ago. He spent a significant part of his career in juvenile services, which included working at Burlington High School. He also worked with the Detective Service Bureau to investigate specific crimes related to sexual abuse. 

“Horrible work but it was some of the most rewarding work anyone in policing could ever take part in,” Lawson said. “The cases were real. They were truly victim-driven cases.”

Deputy Chief Jay Lawson (Photo by Cat Cutillo/Saint Michael’s College)

After 20 plus years in policing, Lawson thought he was “riding into the sunset” when a job opportunity came up at the UVM Police Services. He knew many of the personnel and staff already. Lawson said everything he does at UVM Police Services is collaborative. 

“UVM Police Services really is a victim-driven professional agency,” Lawson said. “The victim is the number one point of emphasis.” 

Lawson posed a trivia question to the class: “Who is responsible for answering a call at the top of Mount Mansfield?” he asked. The answer, he said, was UVM Police services. 

The duo talked about how important credibility is. 

“The last intervention is police,” Lawson said. “We want to see you on the sidewalk and say, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ We want to see you at sporting events. Those are the interactions we want. But we also want you to know we’re here in case of emergencies. We only get to that personal relationship by having trust.” 

Buckley said that police officers now come from vastly different backgrounds and not just the stereotypical criminal justice background. 

“We’re seeing tons of people interested in social work, people with a history background that want to study the history of policing. We have someone on our staff who owned a juice company,” Buckley said. 

Allison Buckley ’22 (Photo by Cat Cutillo/Saint Michael’s College)

One student asked about the interview process to become a police department. Lawson and Buckley explained that all applicants must fill out an application and then take a polygraph test to verify they are being honest on their applications. Applicants also submit fingerprints and go through a medical screening. Lawson and Buckley stressed that the expectations aren’t that applicants have a perfect history, but that they are honest about their mistakes. 

Lawson explained that everyone who goes into policing in Vermont attends the same police academy in Pittsford, Vermont. 

Buckley said, “The police academy is one of those things that makes you more accountable for who you are as a person. I was at the academy for eight days and I cannot go to bed or make my bed without hospital corners now,” she said. “It organizes your life into a routine and makes it super helpful to be successful.” 

Buckley and Lawson said there are currently openings for entry-level police officer positions and there are internship opportunities available. Both encouraged interested students to reach out and participate in a ride-a-long to get a day-in-the-life experience. 

“One of the things I learned at St. Mike’s is its okay to try stuff and not love it or take a different route off of something,” Buckley said. “You have a really strong support network here that will push you in the direction of success.”


Contact Joe Speidel in Boucher Education Career Services for more information 

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