By Daria Kroupoderova
Sitting on a blue exercise ball in a small office on the third floor of the FOSS building watching the Today Show on a small TV is a woman with long blond hair and a longer career in criminal justice career. This is retired police Capt. Linda Forst.
Forst is an instructor of criminal justice at Shoreline Community College. She teaches introduction to criminal justice, criminal evidence and constitutional law, police operations and oversees the criminal justice internship. Forst, and a co-author, literally wrote the book that is used as a textbook in the program.
Criminal justice, however, was the last thing on her mind when she started college at Florida Atlantic University.
“When I was in college, I was a pre-med major,” Forst said. “I have never thought about being a police officer because back then, women certainly didn’t and I had no family members that were police officers.”
Forst didn’t like the labs that were required for pre-med majors, so she decided to take a bunch of random classes, including introduction to criminal justice.
“(I) fell in love with it and the professor was encouraging … I did an internship with the Boca Raton Police Department,” Forst said, adding that she met the Boca Raton chief. “(He) was very progressive…He (said to me) ‘You know I don’t believe in all of those artificial boundaries,’ so I knew it was a good department to go with. When I was ready, after completing my undergraduate degree, it was only the department I applied with and it took about a year, but I did get hired.”
Forst entered the workforce at a time when the economy was slumping. About 3,000 New York Police Department officers were laid off and many came to Florida, looking for work.
“There were so many more people than they anticipated (to show up for the test) they did the physical fitness first and if you didn’t pass the physical fitness, you didn’t go on to anything else so that cut the list in half,” Forst said. She finished eighth after all the tests, but Boca Raton hired just two candidates, including one lower on the list because he was a good candidate for undercover work.
“I graduated high school and gone to college (in Florida). I wasn’t a good candidate to be undercover,” Forst said.
A year later, the department called her. At the time, Forst was considering graduate school, so she asked for some time to think about it.
“I thought I would always regret it if I didn’t give it a shot, so I said ‘yes,’ thinking I would do it for a few years and then go on to something else, but I loved it,” Forst said.
During her time with the Boca Raton department, Forst earned a doctorate in adult education. She helped put together an anti-stalking law with Florida State Rep. Carol Hanson. The law passed in 1992, making it the second anti-stalking state law in the nation, right behind California. Forst stayed at Boca Raton until retiring as captain in 1998 and moving to Washington.
Before starting at Shoreline in 2001, Forst wrote the book “The Aging of America: A Handbook for Police Officers,” aimed at helping police officers understand the needs of the elderly. She also co-authored “Intro to Policing,” which she uses in her Police Operations class.
“All the royalties (from “Intro to Policing”) go to the Shoreline (Community College) Foundation,” Forst said.
Forst said she likes teaching the introductory class because “I want to find me,” referring to her college experience and how she stumbled upon criminal justice. Forst said she wants to have more women in law enforcement because she believes they have good communication skills and can be effective.
When she’s not teaching, Forst is involved in the community and has a lot of hobbies.
“My youngest daughter just got married this past summer… I’ve got to do something or else I’ll start talking to the dog,” Forst said. She is part of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. She is in two book clubs, a hiking club and a biking club, among other activities. She also has done the Iron Girl’s Seattle Women’s Triathlon, formerly known as Danskin Triathlon, five times and did the Seattle-to-Portland Bike Ride in 2011.
(Daria Kroupoderova contributed this article to the Ebbtide, a student run newspaper at Shoreline Community College. Randy Hatfield is photographer for the Ebbtide.)