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From Student to Sheriff: Fullerton Offers Pathways to Public Service Student Spotlight
Clayton Stelter knew he wanted to serve his community. He considered becoming a teacher, a physical therapist, and a coach – but it wasn’t until Fullerton College that he knew he wanted to go into law enforcement.
After high school, Clayton attended Fullerton College, “trying to decide what to do with my life,” he says. When he took classes in the Administration of Justice program, Clayton realized he had found his passion.
“I fell in love with it. I always wanted to give back to the community,” Clayton said. “Law enforcement is being there to help people when they need it in the worst times of their lives.”
After earning his associate degree in Administration of Justice from Fullerton College in 1998, Clayton was hired as a dispatcher for the Los Angeles Police Department while he went through the college’s police academy. After earning his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from CSU Fullerton, he was hired as a sheriff’s deputy in the department, where he has remained.
Since then, he has gone on to earn a master’s degree in Public Administration from CSU Fullerton. “It makes you more promotable,” he said of the advanced degree. Combining his interest in teaching with law enforcement, Clayton also teaches for a criminal justice program at a private college and has been a guest lecturer at CSU Northridge.
“Eventually, I’d like to end up teaching at a community college,” he said.
The Administration of Justice program at Fullerton College prepares students for careers in local, state, and federal law enforcement, security, and court administration. Courses in the program acquaint students with the American criminal justice system, criminal law, evidence procedures, investigations, and forensics. The program offers an Associate of Science for Transfer degree and/or a Certificate of Achievement.
Career opportunities include becoming a police officer or deputy sheriff, records officer, detective, or correctional officer. Employment of police officers and detectives is expected to grow about 7 percent a year through 2026, and the salary ranges from $112,627 to $157,930.
During his time with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Clayton worked in the training unit, Men’s Central Jail, the Sheriff’s Response Team, and in patrol out of the Carson station for nine years. He also served as a training officer for five years, and four years in the policy unit.
Today, Clayton works in the Emergency Operations Bureau, doing tactical planning for upcoming major events and emergencies. Incidents can range from planned events such as the Rose Bowl to disasters such as wildfires sweeping across the county. A key lesson from his time at Fullerton College that continues to serve him well is how to prioritize all the tasks awaiting him.
“One thing I was missing was the basics on time management and studying that are life skills that are pushed to the wayside in high school,” he said. “I took some classes related to that and it helped me to do what I was doing.”
The skills he had learned in time management were useful in his final year at Fullerton College when he was taking 21 units of classes in addition to holding down three jobs.
“Everything since then was made possible because of the skills I learned at Fullerton College,” he said.