The San Jose City College Extension, located in Milpitas, offers up a gem of a campus.
The school first opened in the Spring of 2017. Its Fall ’18 slate features a multitude of leaning opportunities, including classes like Introduction to Business, Python Programming, Data Science, and Small Group Communication.
One of the current courses there — Introduction to the Administration of Justice — is being taught by none other than Milpitas Chief of Police Armando Corpuz.
This is his second time at bat as its teacher. He first taught the course earlier this year, starting in January, just 3 weeks after he was promoted from Captain to Chief. After finishing up that initial semester, Corpuz wasn’t certain he’d return for another, but after reading a series of glowing comments from his students on his Spring 2018 evaluation, he was so deeply touched that he decided to come back. Now he’s deep in the Fall semester.
“All the students are from high school; most are seniors and some are juniors,” said Corpuz. “Some people have an interest in learning more about police work, and some want college credits. Some need extra units to graduate. This is a way for them to start getting college units early.”
Every Tuesday and Thursday, nearly 2 dozen students gather to listen to Corpuz teach all aspects of the criminal justice system, including police work, law enforcement, corrections, juvenile law, and the judicial system.
“The other week, we read a chapter about different types of laws — constitutional law, statutory law, case law, administrative law…And we talked about case law, for example…and I pointed out that case law will change as there are changes in society,” Chief Corpuz explained.
Supporting his point, he brought up Search and Seizure laws, noting how search warrants are now necessary in certain situations where they didn’t apply some 10-15 years ago. Over a decade ago, when smartphones were still new, the police had the authority to search someone’s phone without a warrant.
“Let’s say we made an arrest associated with drug offenses, maybe drug trafficking; case law allowed us to search those items and maybe we’d find texts back and forth about those sales,” said Corpuz. “Today the law requires us to have a search warrant for many of those searches. Some exceptions are maybe someone’s on probation, or parole. But generally speaking, if we’re going into depth on a search, there are many searches that require a search warrant.”
Students are also privy to discussions with the Chief on topics such as race and current events. And Corpuz is very intentional about getting his students to dig deep beneath the surface of whatever’s being presented to them.
“What I tried to do last year and I’m doing it again, with the students…anything we discuss, I often ask them to dig deeper. And when they answer a question, I will often have two or three follow-up questions [for them] to think a little more and dig deeper,” he said. “So when you’re maybe reading something on social media, ask yourself, are there more facts available? Before you draw your conclusion, be as informed as possible.”
Ayessa Gomez, 18, is a freshman at San Jose State. She’s studying Bio-Chemistry, with the goal of becoming a pharmacist. She took Corpuz’s course earlier this year, when she was a Senior at Milpitas High:
“The class was an elective for students, and I thought, why not give it a shot? At first, I just wanted to do it for the credit, but it became something really fun for me. I learned a lot about the criminal justice system and what goes on in court. I recommend it to everyone,” said Gomez. “I got to feel what it was like to be in a college environment, especially having to write papers. It gave me a quick start into what college would really be like.”
When the College Extension’s Director Michael Mooney initially met with Chief Corpuz about the teaching position, he instantly knew he’d found the right person for the job:
“I just knew immediately he was a teacher, and that he was going to be great. He was a seasoned instructor right from the beginning,” said Mooney. “From the way that he conducts his class to the way I see his students react, he’s just a natural.”
Corpuz boils it all down to luck, while also crediting one of the course’s past instructors:
“The Dean of the Extension connected me with this other instructor who taught the course. I got some nuggets from him, found out about things that worked for him and didn’t. He was able to guide me a bit,” Corpuz said.
Corpuz’s class includes guest speakers from the Police Department who come in and share their expertise on a number of topics; students are even offered the opportunity to go out on police ride-alongs, for which they get extra credit.
One course requirement, toward the class’s end, is a 5-page paper. Corpuz gives his students 5 different topics to choose from, perhaps having to do with the death penalty, current issues, or even the differences between a sheriff and an appointed police chief. Students are also able to propose their own topics, subject to instructor approval.
“From my perspective, there’s nothing overly challenging in the class. The curriculum is very basic and simple. But I’ve been with the police department, doing this for 28 years; that’s probably why I see it as simple,” said Corpuz, cracking a smile.
“The impact I want to have is far beyond the class,” he went on. “If I can help somebody, that’s what matters. If it’s offering some perspective into what I do, or if the dad in me comes out and offers guidance or support, then that’s what it’s about. That’s what I want to commit to.”
Indeed, for the chief, who one is, at the level of character, means much more than what one does. A job title is one thing, but quality of character is another.
And so when Chief Corpuz shows up in class, whereas his credentials and experience grant him good credibility, it’s his character that’s doing the talking.