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Fallen Officer Memorial Award 2018 Recipient Selected

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Sgt. Heather Forsythe

Sergeant Heather Forsythe is the 2018 Mark Dunakin Award for Extraordinary Achievement recipient presented by Union Institute & University to a new graduate of the Criminal Justice Management major.

“The award is humbling. Sgt. Dunakin and the other officers gave their lives to keep their community safe,” said Forsythe. “I am committed to working in our community and keeping it safe too.”

The Mark Dunakin Memorial Award honors the memory of Sergeant Dunakin, a UI&U student who tragically lost his life on March 21, 2009, at the age of 40, when he and three other Oakland police officers were killed in the line of duty. The award is presented to a new graduate of the UI&U Criminal Justice Management major who serves in law enforcement and who emulates Sergeant Dunakin’s commitment to community service, academic success, and enthusiasm for Union’s Criminal Justice Management major.

Sgt. Forsythe was chosen by the faculty as an example of someone who not only works hard and maintains high standards, but also is deeply committed to serving others in her community and beyond. She will receive the award at the California Commencement on August 19.

“Union is a perfect fit for me. I had to find a university with a real world curriculum that allowed me to work full time,” said Forsythe.

She is a 17-year law enforcement veteran and sergeant with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department where she is a specialist in the Criminal Intelligence Division and Terrorism Liaison Officer Coordinator for the San Bernardino County. She presents workshops on terrorism and co-hosts and coordinates the monthly Inland Empire Terrorism Early Warning, providing relevant training in counter terrorism, active shooter, and suspicious activity.

Her list of achievements include POST Certified Academy Instructor (AICC) and Field Training Officer (FTO), and an instructor for Basic Academy, teaching POST Learning Domain 43- Emergency Operations/ Law Enforcement Response to Terrorism. She also instructs for POST supervisory school, teaching Terrorism Liaison Officer for supervisors and at the Advanced Officer Training Division teaching Terrorism Awareness and Criminal Intelligence Investigations.

Sgt. Forsythe previously worked in developing the “Women’s Warriors” recruitment program that provides pre-academy mentorship to women who want to join law enforcement in the San Bernardino County. She was also a liaison for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in San Bernardino.

In her community, she has been a volunteer as a youth/explorer scout advisor for eight years, and worked with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) on the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) task force.

This past March, she planned and hosted a faith-based active shooter awareness/ preparedness seminar with the Department of Homeland Security. The conference had approximately 400 local faith-based leaders and members in attendance. She also has conducted numerous site security assessments at schools, churches and community buildings for the CDC/ Department of Public Health Strategic National Stockpile Points of Dispensing program. She is an administrator for CalCOP which is a critical infrastructure assessment data base.

The other recipients of the Union Institute & University Mark Dunakin Memorial Award for Extraordinary Achievement are:

  • 2011 – Isabel Resendez
  • 2013 – Frederick Henry Bobbitt Jr. and Tony Silva
  • 2015 – Ray Framstad
  • 2016 – Sergio Lepe
  • 2017 – Orrlando Mayes
Explore what the Criminal Justice Management program can do for your career today!

David Blake puts the Human Factor in Law Enforcement

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Alumnus David Blake opens his own consulting company specializing in teaching & expert witness work on the topic of human factors and police performance.

David Blake

Alumnus | Criminal Justice Management

Retired police officer and a Union Criminal Justice Management alumni David M. Blake, M.Sc., F.S.A., C.C.I. believed he could make a positive difference in law enforcement. That is why he opened his own consulting company specializing in teaching / expert witness work on the topic of human factors and police performance.

“As a working police officer, I have always had a great deal of passion for not only the practical, but also the academic aspects of policing. More specifically, I have a long history of studying human factors science and its inclusion within police performance during high stress critical incidents such as a use of force,” said Blake. “This area is vital to policing (in my opinion) in regards to policy, procedure, training, and after action review. It is also an area often ignored. It was my passion for the inclusion of the science in the policing world that led to opening a consulting company and engaging in teaching / expert witness work on the topic of human factors and police performance.”

Blake points out that Human Factors science is used in many professions. “Human Factors science encompasses several areas of psychology and ergonomics and has evolved to include many areas. The science is primarily concerned with human performance within a system. Human Factors science concerns itself with the capabilities and limitations of a human (cognition, vision, reaction time, motor performance, etc.) and how those human aspects apply to job tasks, tools, and performance within the environment,” said Blake. “The science is used in many industries such as; aviation, medicine, nuclear, and transportation. My hope is that law enforcement will fully consider Human Factors science in policy, procedure, training, and after action performance review.” 

The lack of Human Factors science often leads to harsh judgments made in high stress situations. “Most people do not consider how officers function under stress or what human factors (eg: vision, cognition, reaction time) led to their perceptions and performance. These very human aspects should always be considered when reviewing police performance in high stress environments,” said Blake. “Officers are fallible, function at the level of their training, and performance is dictated by human capabilities and limitations. For instance, the public does not consider that it takes three camera views and several officials in many sporting events to make a ruling on what happened on the field, yet the expectation is for police to perform to inhuman standards under the same rapidly evolving, tense and uncertain situations that one might find in high intensity sport.”

Blake is a 2010 Union Institute & University Criminal Justice Management Degree graduate. He thinks the critical thinking skills associated with the degree are crucial to a successful career in law enforcement. “The admissions process, the accreditation, and the acceptance of previously earned credit were all an important part of choosing Union. Once admitted, I found the coursework to be on point and interesting,” said Blake. “I highly recommend Union.” “The most important aspect of having an advanced degree is the critical thinking skills learned in higher education. Skills such as analyzation, interpretation, application and evaluation are paramount to a successful career in law enforcement. I highly recommend a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice for all law enforcement officers,” said Blake.

Union Institute & University’s major in Criminal Justice Management is a nationally recognized degree program designed to advance the careers of law enforcement personnel into supervisory, management, and executive positions within the criminal justice system.

Learn more about Union’s Criminal Justice degree program