A basic course in criminal justice introduces and tests knowledge of fundamental concepts, such as due process, equal treatment, penology, American jurisprudence and how government and law enforcement work at the local, county, state and federal level. Tests are usually a mix of multiple choice, short answer and essay questions.
The subject matter of criminal justice is not crime, which is well-defined, but law, and how it is enforced. The American system of jurisprudence provides the suspect of a crime with a wide range of protections, some of which may be in force even before the suspect becomes a suspect. Under ordinary circumstances, for example, law enforcement officials cannot listen to phone conversations hoping to hear a crime planned without the approval of a higher civil authority, usually an elected magistrate like a judge or sheriff.
There are many venues that demand law enforcement and many branches thereof; city police, county sheriff's deputies and state troopers are the most familiar, but airport security, border patrol and forest rangers all have unique law enforcement responsibilities. They are empowered to fulfill those responsibilities even to the point of using deadly force if the situation warrants it, but again, the rights of the citizen have an impact on what law enforcement officers are permitted to do, even if the citizen is the suspect in a truly heinous crime.
These considerations and others make criminal justice a fascinating subject for the professor and student alike..