From cop to college professor: Dr. Peter Fulks
Cerro Coso's Coyote Corner
August 5, 2023
For years, Peter Fulks strapped on a gun and badge every working day. As a police officer, he had the job he always wanted, and he was good at it. Then, he was injured in the line of duty. His life suddenly changed without warning. During a difficult recovery, Peter shifted his passion to higher education. He eventually became a steward for public policy, and contributed valuable research to provide a better future for our nation and world. He is now Dr. Peter Fulks, professor of Administration of Justice and Department Chair and Director of Public Services at Cerro Coso Community College. We are proud to have Peter teaching at Cerro Coso Community College in Tehachapi. Let's get to know more about him.
Q: Tell us about yourself, Peter.
A: I grew up in Kern County, and love the East Kern environment and the Eastern Sierra. I am an avid outdoor enthusiast, and I love spending time with my family in the woods. Cerro Coso Community College provides me with an environment I like, students that I love and a job that really has an impact.
Q: What is your education and professional background?
A: I received a B.S. in Criminal Justice with Alpha Phi Sigma honors, then followed my dream into local law enforcement. I was a police officer for seven years. In 2010, I was injured in the line of duty. I endured four years of pain and recovery, and the experience changed my life. It made me want to work on the system, work on improving the lives of other officers with the academy and provide them with information to avoid injury. The experience opened my eyes to the things that were missing from training, the legacy impacts of training and the need to build a more resilient workforce in regards to trauma experienced on the job. I wanted it to be human-centered for the people being policed and the people doing the policing, improving the experience for all.
Q: What did you do after that?
A: I changed careers and pursued a Master's degree. I studied the impacts of social media on high profile law enforcement events. In higher education, I discovered a true passion in educational program development for social good. For the last six years, I have been leading the development of the Incarcerated Students Education Program at Cerro Coso. Our program is a national leader in face-to-face prison higher education that focuses heavily on professional development structures, de-colonizing of educational practices and centering the work on student outcomes instead of recidivism.
This year, after many years of hard work, I received my Doctorate in Criminal Justice and my field work was in my current role as prison faculty coordinator. My Ph.D. work focuses on the scalability of higher education in prison programming and student outcomes to enhance public safety by enhancing the lives of individuals with access to quality education.
Q: Looking back, what would you say about your career pathway?
A: Being a police officer was my career dream. But the experience of the injury gave me a lot of life lessons and helped me move all the way toward getting my doctorate so that now I can have a much larger impact in the new frontier, which is rehabilitation. So I would say at this point, I'm living out the dream of making the most amount of positive impact possible.
Q: Please describe the Public Services department at Cerro Coso.
A: The Public Services department has undergone a large expansion in the last few years. We now offer a full time Police Academy and full time Corrections Academy in partnership with Kern County Sheriff's Office. We just started a multi-layered certification program for wildland fire fighting in Tehachapi and Bishop. Our Private Security Officer training program covers all the needed certifications to be employed across the state in security services. We have our part time Police Academy in Tehachapi, and a robust on-ground and online program for our Administration of Justice degree. In the next year, our Forestry and Outdoor leadership programs will be accepting students also.
Q: What are some of the career prospects for students after graduating from Public Services programs?
A: Our department is titled Public Services, because we employ across a large range of jobs in the largest job sector in the U.S. government or government-related jobs. Since our programs provide the industry-level certifications in high demand, our students graduate directly into mid-to-high paying careers, bypassing most entry level jobs. These include: Corrections Officer, Investigator, Animal Control, Park Ranger, Police Officer, Deputy Sheriff, Court Liaison, Victim Assistance, Private Security and more.
Q: What advice do you have for students considering taking classes in Public Service?
A: Our department encourages career exploration. I would advise students to sample the courses and see what interests them the most without incurring high costs of private or 4-year programs. Even people who take the part time police academy or fire fighter training are not entirely sure that is their 30-year career choice. Having options and the ability to learn and develop in a profession and academically at the same time provides our students with ample opportunity.
We have multiple Public Service courses and programs available at Cerro Coso Tehachapi Campus. Our Law Enforcement Academy will start Aug. 12 and Wildland Firefighter Training starts Nov. 1. For questions on how you can enroll, please call our campus at (661) 823-4986. Financial aid is available. Come visit our campus at 126 S. Snyder Ave. Tehachapi.