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 dirty blond hair and a long-running criminal justice career. This is retired Captain Linda Forst.
Forst is an instructor of criminal justice at Shoreline Community College. She teaches Intro to Criminal Justice, Criminal Evidence and Constitutional Law, Police Operations, a class that uses a textbook she coauthored, as well as oversees the Criminal Justice internship.
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 says. “I have never thought about being a police officer because back then women certainly didn’t and I had no family 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 Intro to Criminal Justice.
“(I) fell in love with it and the professor was encouraging... I did an internship with the Boca Raton Police Department (BRPD),” Forst says. She met the chief of the BRPD who “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.,” Forst says. “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 didn’t get hired the first time around due to a slump in the economy at the time. About 3,000 New York Police Department cops were laid off. A lot of the cops came to Florida, trying to get jobs.
“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 says. She came out number eight after all the tests. Even though she came out number eight overall, BRPD only hired two candidates, one being behind her on the list because he was a good candidate for undercover work.
“I graduated high school and (had) gone to college there(in Florida). I wasn’t a good candidate to be undercover,” Forst says.
A year later, she got a call asking if she wanted to work for the BRPD. At the time she was deciding if she wanted to go to graduate school or not, 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 says.
During her time at BRPD she received her doctorate in adult education. She helped with putting together anti stalking law with House of Representatives, Carol Hanson, and it passed in 1992 making it the second anti stalking state law in the nation right behind California’s law.
She ended up staying at BRPD up until retiring as captain in 1998 and moving to Washington.
Before starting at SCC in 2001, Forst wrote the book “The Aging of America: A Handbook for Police Officers,” a niche book meant to help police officers to 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 it (“Intro to Policing”) go to the Shoreline (Community College) Foundation,” Forst says.
She also says she likes teaching the Intro to Criminal Justice 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 the police force because “your mouth is your best weapon” and women are great at talking themselves out of situations.
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 says.
She is part of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Officers among other organizations in the community.
Forst is part of 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.
Her most recent project is helping start the Child Advocacy Studies certificate, covered in the previous issue of the Ebbtide, which is a three-course program started recently at SCC.