By David Silva
George DeAngelis has had many titles throughout his law enforcement career as a member of the El Paso Police Department.
Over a 28-year span, he worked as a police officer, patrol officer, K-9 officer, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, commander and deputy chief until retiring as assistant chief.
He has experienced numerous crimes of various severities and has seen the layers, steps and perspectives that are involved in solving these crimes. He recalls a time as captain in which a series of murders resulted in him bringing in a serial murder specialist. The knowledge and expertise changed the manner in which the case was approached and solved.
“We had the specialized crimes,” DeAngelis said of his time as captain of the Criminal Investigation Division. “We had homicide, sex crimes, burglary, narcotics.”
As captain, he saw the process of an investigation in its entirety, which differed greatly from his days as a patrol officer.
“As a patrol officer you’re kind of a jack of all trades,” DeAngelis said. “You would start on something and then have to turn it over to someone one else. On the other side of the coin, being able to focus on highly sensitive cases from start to finish was very rewarding.”
Now he goes by a much different title – professor. He has been teaching in the criminal justice department at Eastfield since retiring from the force. He teaches the criminal investigation, crime in America fundamental criminal law,and Serial Murder Special Topic, among others.
He relates his experience to the various classes he teaches and differentiates the cop-world’s facts and fictions.
“It’s very synthetic on TV, very clean,” DeAngelis said. “I tell my students the first thing they’re going to notice about crime scenes that they’ll never forget is the odor.”
The grueling and lengthy process of solving a crime mirrors the reality of crime scenes.
“The technology that they portray on television is high tech, and unfortunately we’re not as advanced as television portrays,” he said.
Nevertheless, the concept of crime investigation and police work sparks the interest of many students, particularly the process of serial murder investigation.
Last month, criminal justice students attended a presentation via Skype about the epidemic of female murders in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Author and journalist Diana Washington Valdez shared insights into the topic based on her work for the El Paso Times and her book “The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women.”
“It did trigger my interest to know about the killings and the serial killers,” criminal justice major Dulce Rivera said. “I’d really like to understand why serial killers do what they do.”
DeAngelis received positive reactions from students about the presentation and said he hopes it attracts them to his criminal justice class on serial murders, which will be offered again in the spring..
“Class size has been increasing every semester,” he said.
The course, CJSA 1392, supplements the criminal justice core and is suited for criminal justice majors with an interest in murder investigation. It is available to all students and requires no prerequisites. The class teaches the proper process of investigating and interrogating serial murderers by exploring their practical and psychological patterns.
Aside from looking at profiling, they also identify the mistakes that the police system has made in the past and debunks the serial killer myths believed by a majority of people.
“We do a lot of case studies,” DeAngelis said. “We study the patterns and how they were solved.”
Students say they like that DeAngelis has real-world experience.
“I would take [the class],” said first-year student Ester Morale, who is undecided in her major but is taking another of DeAngelis’ courses. “You get to learn the [killer’s] psychological behavior. You get to study them.”