Faculty Highlight: Heff Heffernan Reinforces Law Enforcement Officer Learning Through Local Affidavit LessonShare
Thursday, July 29, 2021
By Wendy Jo Moyer
Dave “Heff” Heffernan, professor, criminal justice technology, and Osceola Campus Criminal Justice program chair, expands the critical thinking and ethical skills of law enforcement, corrections and probation officers through practical activities that reinforce their learning — including some exercises that may hit close to home.
As part of the Criminal Justice Experiential Learning Program, Heff teaches three, six-credit Field Experience Courses that include both coursework and work-based learning for sworn officers who are pursuing an Associate in Science in criminal justice technology. Many of the courses’ assignments involve analysis, ethics and writing, which are important skills for their careers.
“That’s what they do day in and day out in their jobs,” Heff explained. “They have to look at complex issues and analyze ethics…We start out with understanding some of the ethical philosophies and then apply them to some of the difficult situations that they have to deal with as a law enforcement officer.”
For example, Heff assigns students to review the affidavit for Markeith Loyd, who allegedly fatally shot Orlando Police Department Master Sgt. Debra Clayton in January 2017 at a Walmart on Princeton Street after she tried to arrest him for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon in December 2016. Additionally, Orange County Deputy First Class Norman Lewis was killed in an accident during the pursuit of Loyd.
“This affidavit with Markeith Loyd, if you read it, you see how mercilessly he [Loyd] executed her [Clayton] when she was on the ground,” he explained. “So, law enforcement officers have to be aware of this — on the one hand — but they also have to be the servant, because they’re out there to serve.”
After reading the affidavit, Heff asks students to identify five criminal statutes that could be applied to the case. Then students must identify the statute by number, title and specific element of the law that was violated.
“I’m asking them, what are the elements of the law that this individual violated, because as a law enforcement officer, you have to be able to articulate that. If you are alleging that you have probable cause that someone committed a crime, you must know what the state statute is, what’s the content, what does it prohibit — for example — and determine their prohibited behavior. Then you must be able to articulate that,” he shared explaining that students must include all of these details when they write arrest reports.
Not only does this exercise make students think critically and improve the writing of their arrest reports, it also shows them how much of their reports are publicly available. Additionally, as this case plays out in court — the trial is scheduled for October 2021 — students will see the actual application of the amendments and laws that they are learning in class.
The exercise, Heff admits, does create some sensitivity in the classroom as many of the students were colleagues of Clayton and Lewis, and others were involved in the pursuit of Loyd. But Heff uses this exercise because it’s an active case, and most officers are aware of the case and many of the details, but they have not seen the affidavit or the specific details of the incident.
“It has a much different educational feel than a fictional case that is very abstract to them. People remember things better when there’s some kind of emotional attachment,” he said, adding that many officers have a hard emotional shell. “One of the things that I do both in this class and my general classes is to try to strike at the emotional level to soften that exterior shell.”
Heff follows this exercise with a tribute to Clayton, where they learn about her community involvement and commitment to the citizens she served.
Do you know a faculty member doing great work? Or, perhaps you’d like to share the work you’re doing? Send the colleague’s (or your) name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu and include Faculty Highlight Nomination in the subject line of your email. We might just feature your colleague (or you) as an upcoming Faculty Highlight.