Polk State Criminal Justice grad with diverse experience finds success as investigator

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

John Traas comes from a family of law enforcement professionals, but it was through his own education, internships, and career that he learned the large diversity of opportunities that exist in the criminal justice field.

Traas, who achieved his Polk State Associate in Arts Degree with the Criminal Justice Transfer Intent in 2014, went on to receive his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida graduating in 2016. Traas became an Investigator for Securitas Critical Infrastructure Services, Inc., a national leader in specialized operations providing investigations and support services to the U.S. Federal Government, government contractors, and highly regulated industries worldwide.

“Polk State gave me a great foundation to get me to where I am today,” Traas said.

His resume is impressive and full of diverse experience, including internships with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration Services, Maryland Judiciary System, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office.

“Polk State gave me a great foundation to get me to where I am today.”

John Traas
Polk State Alumnus
Investigator for Securitas Critical Infrastructure Services, Inc.

Like many students right out of college, Traas applied for a variety of jobs in hopes of landing something quickly and rewarding. With the abundance of opportunities in the criminal justice field, he applied for positions in law enforcement, corrections, courts, investigations, and more. Securitas Critical Infrastructure Services, Inc. gave Traas his first full-time job offer in 2017 and he seized the opportunity.

“I encourage students to focus on all areas of their studies and gain life experience in college through their programs, internship opportunities, networking, and researching,” he said. “Students should never limit themselves and should put time into the things that they are interested in.”

Polk State’s Criminal Justice Program is designed to prepare students with cross-functional skills necessary for entry into a variety of professions. The curriculum includes introductions to criminology and corrections, technical and professional writing, computers and information systems, criminal investigation, communications, and ethics.

“Our courses all require writing and critical thinking components,” Polk State Criminal Justice Program Director Sgt. Chris Shea said. “Our professors, who are practitioners who work in the field, relate the textbook material to real-life events and cases.”

Paired with internships, Traas was able to take what he was learning in class and experience it in the real world. Through his internships, Traas gained experience he uses in his career today, including interview techniques, fact checking, and experience with researching and accessing databases and public information.

In his job as an Investigator, Traas says every day is different. He conducts background checks on individuals who need clearances. A typical day involves interviewing subjects, references, previous employers, and mental health professionals. He compiles all his findings into reports for those that need them to use in their consideration of hiring their employees.

“Report writing is crucial. Being computer savvy and detail-oriented are also major,” Traas said. “Polk State’s program provides a solid foundation that those of us in the criminal justice field use every day.”

He is based in his home state of Maryland. Traas came to Polk County where he could live with his grandparents while he pursued his education.

“I wanted to go to a university in Florida and Polk State was close and affordable while I figured out exactly what I wanted to do and what university I wanted to go to,” he explained.

During his time at Polk State, he volunteered as a notetaker at the College and participated in the Phi Theta Kappa National Honors Society while completing his associate degree and prerequisites in Polk State’s Criminal Justice Program needed to transfer the university level.

“Polk State’s professors have the knowledge and professional experience that make for a great program.”

“Polk State’s professors have the knowledge and professional experience that make for a great program,” Traas said.

Paired with internships, which Traas is a huge advocate of, he shared that students leave the Polk State Criminal Justice Program well prepared for continuing their education and assuming employment in the field. The program enjoys partnerships with a variety of organizations including the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Haines City Police Department, the Department of Corrections, and more local agencies where students have benefited from internship and experiential learning experiences.

“My advice to students is to always ask ‘what else?’” he said. “What else can I be doing to grow myself, show interest in my field, and increase my exposure to new skills.”

That is why Traas recently enrolled in Liberty University’s Master’s in Business Administration Program. He aspires to continue his career in criminal justice and move up in the field.