Student gets hands-on experience through police internship


Lauren Gawlak, a junior studying criminal justice at Wichita State, spent the summer gaining firsthand experience as a police intern with the Lenexa Police Department.

She was able to shadow police officers on many occasions and see all aspects of the department in her time there, giving her the chance to explore many different areas of the criminal justice field.

“We did so much. I was with the detectives for a day and I got to train with the tactical team, which is like their SWAT team,” Gawlak said. “We did a self-defense class which was hard because I got beat up. And that was the first day.”

While she would be the busiest during the day, there were plenty of late night ride alongs that Gawlak was able to experience, including her last ride along during the midnight shift.

“It was just cool to see how officers handled those instances, she says. They just want the best for themselves and the best for other people.”

While the ride alongs may have been the more thrilling moments during her internship, Gawlak also got to experience more special training that the department uses.

Before going in I knew I wanted to do something in criminal justice, but I didn't know until after this that I want to do a thousand things.
Lauren Gawlak, 
police intern

The best experience, she says, was training with the tactical team in a live-action role play of domestic terrorism. All the interns and a couple of volunteers were put into tactical wear -- about seven layers of clothing, as well as helmets.

The whole SWAT team was there in all of their gear, and they actually were going to search a building. They used the abandoned city hall of Lenexa for training. It was terrifying, but it was so fun.”

Gawlak was able to take away more than ride alongs and special training from her internship. She learned there is a lot more to criminal justice than what people typically think.

“When I first heard criminal justice, I always thought of law enforcement, but it's so much more than that,” Gawlak said. “There's a lot of different jobs you can have under criminal justice. It isn't just law enforcement. It's literally the whole spectrum. Before going in I knew I wanted to do something in criminal justice, but I didn't know until after this that I want to do a thousand things. I want to look into the K-9 unit, narcotics and look more into detective work or work in patrol for a while.”

While she has considered this field for quite a while, Gawlak had the chance to think deeper about how this internship and the field has impacted her, and everyone else.

“What I learned from the whole thing that I kinda took away and still like to share with other people was just the general respect you should have for other people no matter what job, no matter what race, what gender,” Gawlak said. “I also think it's important to have a good relationship, especially with this job, with your community. I learned a lot about myself. You don't realize what you can do until you're put in situations. You're strongest when you're passionate about something.”

Learn more about the School of Criminal Justice