Nearly a decade after receiving his criminal justice degree at the University, Hartford Police Department Detective Steven Citta ’05 was back on campus this year to be recognized for a career achievement. At a Hartford Police Department (HPD) ceremony held in the University’s Wilde Auditorium, he was presented with the Chief’s Medal of Valor for “ the intelligent performance of his duty and, at grave and imminent personal danger, engaging in successful combat with an armed and dangerous adversary.” Citta had apprehended an individual who fled from a car during an attempted police traffic stop. When he located that individual on a nearby city street, the suspect turned and came at him with a gun pointed directly at him. Citta was able to wound and then subdue the suspect.
It’s obvious that Citta has put the major that attracted him to campus to good use. He says he was always interested in criminal justice and envisioned himself as a law enforcement officer. So the University’s criminal justice degree program prompted the Charlton, Mass., native to enroll in 2001. Another appeal was the requirement that all criminal justice students do internships within the field.
“I really liked the idea of exploring the field while still a student,” he says. Citta did internships with the adult probation program in Bristol, Conn., and with the U.S. Marshal’s Office in New Haven, Conn. After graduation, he joined the HPD.
Citta says he found his internships quite valuable. “It was a great snapshot of different aspects of the criminal justice field,” he says. In the adult probation program, he saw how offenders adjusted to living under probation, and with the U.S. Marshal’s Office he experienced the court system and the investigation process. “Experiences like those can really help steer your career,” he says.
The internship component of the criminal justice program is compelling for many prospective students according to Albert Di Chiara, director of the program in the College of Arts and Sciences, because they receive hands-on experience in fields where jobs are increasing. “For example, as a criminologist, you have to spend time meeting with criminals,” he says, “so it is very helpful for a student to start that process with a mentor in an internship setting.”
The criminal justice program has strong connections with the state’s judicial system, particularly in probation services where many students do their internships. The program also has a strong relationship with the HPD.
“Our department has a good relationship with the University, so we’ve done lots of programs there,” Citti says, adding that he comes back to the University on a semiregular basis, including to work as part of the HPD detail at the University’s Spring Fling festival
Citta is currently a detective assigned to the State Intelligence Center, a task force that focuses on criminal intelligence and Homeland Security issues in the state. He is also a bomb technician on the department’s bomb squad. He also has been an instructor in six subjects at the police academy. He qualified for certification to teach at the academy because of his major in criminal justice and minors in sociology and psychology.
Citta says he regularly uses all of the wide-ranging skills he acquired at the University in his work. “From writing reports to testifying in court to interacting with people, the skills I gained really helped me professionalize my career. The courses I took gave me the tools to get the job done better.”