CLARKSVILLE, TN — Last spring, when Austin Peay State University student Cassidy Reeves decided to take her studies seriously, she knew what she had to do — watch television. Watch a lot of TV. Specifically, she spent the following summer taking a directed study course while engrossed in popular crime shows, such as “Criminal Minds,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “NCIS,” and “White Collar.” “.
She worked under Dr. Sarah Whiteford, assistant professor of criminal justice at APSU, and Whiteford had only one response to Reeves’ work in front of television over the summer – “I’m so proud, so proud.”
Whiteford knew Reeves was no couch potato. In fact, she had assigned the student the TV shows to watch as part of a directed research study, and in March they presented their findings at the National Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference. in Las Vegas. Reeves was one of the few undergraduate presenters at the event – a conference for faculty and graduate students in the field of criminal justice.
But let’s back up for a minute. The fact that Reeves is there is pretty amazing.
‘Do not worry. I will convert you’
Reeves, originally from Clarksville, arrived at Austin Peay several years ago, but when her grades suffered following a traumatic semester, she was forced to take a break from school.
“My father had passed away and I didn’t handle it properly,” she said. “I was put on academic probation and then I was academically suspended.”
After a short hiatus, she returned to college, majoring in psychology, and one afternoon found herself taking an elective in criminology. It was there that she met Whiteford, who is always on the lookout for potential criminal justice students.
“I always tease students on the first day of class, ‘Who’s a criminal justice major?'” she said. “If no one raises their hand, I say, ‘Don’t worry. I will convert you.’
This is exactly what happened to Reeves, who was fascinated by the field. She ended up adding a minor in criminal justice, and after graduating in August, she will join Austin Peay’s new master’s in criminal justice program.
Seeing Reeves’ interest in the field, Whiteford proposed that they work together over the summer on a research project. This is how the APSU student ended up watching so much TV.
“What she did was a five-year follow-up of data that I had collected with college students years ago, where we had analyzed 11 different crime shows,” Whiteford said. “To get a more recent measurement, I said I’d like to do a five-year follow-up of all the shows that are still airing. We ended up with these four. And she collected data over the summer, learned how to use SPSS (statistical software), enter data, analyze it and write a report on his findings.
‘Oh! It’s an important part
After his training, Reeves found a comfortable spot on his couch and began taking notes while watching crime shows. His finger usually stayed on the remote.
“I would go, ‘Oh! It’s an important part, ‘and I should put it on hold,’ she said. “There were 93 variables coded per episode. We focused on the demographics of police officers, victims, offenders, crimes described, lethal weapons they used, and many other crime details. You’d think things would happen in a real case, just portrayed by the media because that’s how people who don’t have a criminal justice background are told, what their idea of the criminal justice system is.
What did they learn from these shows? An interesting point is that police procedures include more female investigators. In the past, these shows typically focused on two male detectives investigating a crime. Think Starsky and Hutch or Detectives Lennie Briscoe and Rey Curtis from Law and Order.
“It’s good to show the progress of the five-year follow-up that they’re integrating more female officers,” Reeves said. “As a girl, I grew up watching CSI: Las Vegas. I like a strong female lead.
“I appreciated the opportunity and the privilege.”
Whiteford saw potential in Reeves’ work, so the two began working on an academic paper. Reeves received one of Austin Peay’s Undergraduate Research Enhancement Fund grants, which covered his airfare, hotel and conference registration at the National Academy of Justice Sciences. criminal in Las Vegas.
“It was very exciting but also gratifying to know that I was one of the few female undergraduates there,” she said. “The pressure was increased at that time, but I appreciated the opportunity and the privilege.”
Reeves plans to pursue a career in criminal justice, either as an academic or with a local law enforcement agency.
For more information about APSU’s criminal justice programs, visit https://www.apsu.edu/criminal-justice/.