Criminal Justice Club Walks the Beat

Higher Learning Commission

Beta Sigma Omega Lambda connects students with law enforcement, security and corrections professionals in the field

In criminal justice circles, BOLO stands for “be on the lookout.” A BOLO is an all-points bulletin circulated among law enforcement agencies that contains information regarding wanted suspects or persons of interest. If the Beta Sigma Omega Lambda Chapter of the American Criminal Justice Association, aka the Criminal Justice Club at Inver Hills Community College, happened to issue a BOLO to its student members, that alert probably wouldn’t focus on perps or fugitives. Beta Sigma Omega Lambda is all about being on the lookout for career success in the criminal justice field.

Michael Casello, a U.S. Army veteran and a student in the Criminal Justice program, served as president of the Criminal Justice Club and worked hard to popularize the club with his fellow students. Casello is set to graduate with an A.S. degree in spring 2014. The Criminal Justice program offers a course of study that prepares individuals for careers in corrections, security and law enforcement. The program also functions as a springboard for people seeking to transfer to a four-year institution to obtain a bachelor’s degree linked to the criminal justice field.

Casello has chosen to follow the latter path. He has been accepted by the University of Minnesota and this fall will begin pursuing a B.S. in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance. Going on to attend law school at the U of M is also on Casello’s academic and career horizon.

Metropolitan State University’s  School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Cohort program is a major and degree completion program for Inver Hills Community College students who have been awarded an A.S. degree in law enforcement or criminal justice and are ready to earn a bachelor’s degree in the same areas of study. Major courses are offered on the Inver Hills campus evenings or online.

Michael Casello

During his time at Inver Hills, Casello has excelled. He served as treasurer of Alpha Omicron Beta, the college’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter and was selected to the All-Minnesota Academic Team. He also received a $2,000 Goodrich Veteran’s Scholarship for both fall semester 2013 and spring semester 2014. One of his proudest moments at Inver Hills arrived Feb. 28, 2013, when the Criminal Justice Club became a chartered chapter of the American Criminal Justice Association–Lambda Alpha Epsilon.

“The American Criminal Justice Association is a national organization dedicated to improving criminal justice through educational activities,” Casello said. “The ACJA has two hundred and fifty-five active chapters across the United States. We have about thirty very involved student members in our club and they volunteer for everything. The club has grown three hundred percent since we started—and we take club activities very seriously. So far, we have accomplished more than nine hundred hours of community service.”

American Criminal Justice Association–LAE Objectives *

  1. To improve criminal justice through educational activities.
  2. To foster professionalism in law enforcement personnel and agencies.
  3. To promote professional, academic, and public awareness of criminal justice issues.
  4. To encourage the establishment and expansion of higher education and professional training in criminal justice.
  5. To provide a unified voice for professionals in, and students of, criminal justice.
  6. To promote high standards of ethical conduct, professional training, and higher education within the criminal justice field.
* Courtesy of the ACJA–LAE website

Leslie Palmer, a criminal justice instructor and faculty advisor to Beta Sigma Omega Lambda, or BSOL, sees the club as a huge asset to her students and her program. “Our club members volunteer with police departments and have made a wonderful impression through their enthusiasm and professionalism,” Palmer said. “We have worked with the Burnsville and Lakeville police departments and the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office, serving as role players in bomb evacuation, mass casualty and active shooter scenarios.”

Palmer added that BSOL members are participating in the Adopt-a-Highway program, taking care of a two-mile stretch on U.S. Route 52 between Southview Boulevard and Butler Avenue. Members volunteered as part of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon to serve food to troops in the 34th Infantry Division during a holiday party held at the Minnesota Army National Guard Armory in Inver Grove Heights.  In December 2013, the club sponsored a screening of Heroes Behind the Badge, a documentary film about men and women in law enforcement who risk and sometimes sacrifice their lives in the line of duty. The screening was held in the Fine Arts building on the Inver Hills campus and was well attended.

The Criminal Justice program offers a Criminal Justice A.S. degree, Law Enforcement A.S. degree, a Corrections certificate and a Pre-CCJLE (Criminal Justice) Certificate.

BSOL members also toured the Hennepin County Adult Corrections Facility in Plymouth, Minn. “That was a great learning experience,” said Casello, who works as a counselor for MnCoSA, or Minnesota Circles of Support and Accountability, a project administered by the Minnesota Department of Corrections. “The Hennepin facility houses a little under five hundred adult offenders, both men and women, convicted of felonies, gross misdemeanors and misdemeanors. The facility provides short-term custody and programming for up to a year.”

Both Casello and Palmer reported that two BSOL highlights in 2013 were when club members traveled to the ACJA–LAE 76th National Conference in Valley Forge, Pa., in April and the Region 6 ACJA Regional Conference in Chicago, Ill., in October.

“AJCA conferences provide amazing networking opportunities,” Casello said. “You get to meet people working in criminal justice and law enforcement. You not only learn what the work is like in those fields, you also make connections that can help launch your career once you’ve finished school and earned your degree.”

Palmer reported that everyone enjoyed the competitions held at the Region 6 Conference, which involved ACJA chapters from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. “The students and I competed in various academic exams—Police Organization, Juvenile Justice, Corrections and Criminal Law—as well as Physical Agility and Crime Scene Investigation competitions,” she said. “Everyone did extremely well, and I am proud to say that we clearly showed the national organization the high quality of students attending Inver Hills Community College.”

BSOL Chapter Competition Winners
2013 Region 6 ACJA Regional Conference

Individual Awards

  • Mike Running • 3rd place • ACJA/LAE Knowledge Exam (Lower Level)
  • Michael Casello • 2nd place • Corrections Exam (Lower Level)
  • Troy Zimmerman • 3rd place • Physical Agility Competition (Lower Level – Males, Age 36+)
  • Leslie Palmer (Instructor/Advisor) • 3rd place • Corrections Exam (Professional Level)
  • Leslie Palmer (Instructor/Advisor) • 3rd place • Criminal Law Exam (Professional Level)

Team Awards

  • Leslie Palmer (Instructor/Advisor), Matt Clark and Maria Ramos • 2nd place • Crime Scene Investigation (Professional Level)

Tours are big part of the conference experience as well. On the way to the Region 6 Conference, club members visited the Dane County Sheriff’s Office in Madison, Wis. While in Chicago, they toured the Chicago Police Education and Training Academy and Cook County Jail. The trip to the national conference included stops at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell Center, Independence National Historical Park, the Abington Township Police Department and Valley Forge National Historical Park.

“We are definitely excited about the ACJA–LAE 77th National Conference in Kansas City, Mo., in March 2014,” Palmer said. “We are getting ready for the exams and competitions, and hope to participate in the Firearms competition for the first time.”

The Criminal Justice program’s Law Enforcement A.S. degree is an accredited, POST Certified program that leads qualified students to test with the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST Board).

Michael Casello is looking forward to walking during the May 2014 graduation ceremony with his son, Kyle, 21, who is earning his A.A. at Inver Hills and will go on to the U of M to pursue a B.A. in Communications and Cultural Arts. Casello, 40, and his wife, Kelly, also have a daughter, Tori, 20, a unit supply specialist stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, a base her father remembers from his own time in the military. The family has a corgi-terrier mix, a “furry rat beast” called HeyMan.

“I chose the criminal justice field because I want to give back to my community,” Casello said. “That choice relates back to my time in the military. I took on the responsibility of the Criminal Justice Club because I have a passion for this field, but we’ve been successful simply because everyone involved in the club shares that passion.”

Be sure to like BSOL on Facebook.

About the instructors

Leslie Palmer
Leslie Palmer | Criminal Justice Instructor

Leslie Palmer has been teaching criminal justice college courses since 2007. Palmer joined Inver Hills Community College faculty in the summer of 2012 and teaches on campus and online in the Criminal Justice program.  She serves as the faculty advisor to the Inver Hills Criminal Justice Student Organization, Beta Sigma Omega Lambda chapter of the American Criminal Justice Association.

Prior to 2007, Palmer worked in corrections. Her past experience also involves law enforcement training and POST certification in Minnesota, 911 dispatching, private security and loss prevention. She has held volunteer positions in police reserves and as a firefighter. Her education includes a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement Certification and a Master of Science in Public Safety/Criminal Justice. She is finishing up her Ph.D. in Public Safety/Criminal Justice from Capella University.

Leslie Palmer is married to a police officer and has three daughters, ages 7, 4 and 2. The family has three dogs: a yellow lab, a labradoodle and a mini-Chihuahua. Two of her daughters dance competitively so she spends many hours a week at their dance studio.

Michael Server
Michael Server | Law Enforcement Instructor

A 26-year veteran of the Lakeville Police Department, 13 years as a patrol officer and 13 years as a detective, Michael Server started teaching at Inver Hills in fall 2010. Server became a college instructor after presenting his master’s thesis, “Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect,” at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Saint Mary’s happened to have a course on that very subject and asked Server if he was interested in teaching. He accepted the challenge.

Server has a Master of Arts in Education from Saint Mary’s and a Bachelor of Science in Law Enforcement/Corrections from Minnesota State University, Mankato. He is two thirds complete with a Master of Science in Public Safety/Criminal Justice from Capella University.

Before coming to Inver Hills, Server taught at Saint Mary’s, Rasmussen College, Alexandria Community and Technical College, and Minneapolis Community and Technical College. At Inver, he serves as the coordinator for Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). He was instrumental in creating a partnership with Metropolitan State University’s School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Cohort program that allows Inver Hills criminal justice graduates to earn a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement or criminal justice on the IHCC campus or online. He also began work that established the Criminal Justice program’s Advisory Board.

Server has two sons, one a U.S. Army veteran who is enrolled in the Emergency Medical Services program at Inver Hills, and one who works as an IT specialist.

The criminal justice field is teeming with a wide range of rewarding career paths. To learn more, check out What Can I Do with a Criminal Justice or Law Enforcement Degree?

For more information about the Criminal Justice program at Inver Hills Community College, contact:
  • Leslie Palmer
    Criminal Justice Instructor
    Criminal Justice Club Faculty Advisor
  • Michael Server
    Law Enforcement Instructor
    Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Coordinator
“Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower


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