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Alumni Stories: Following in Criminal Justice Footsteps

By John Robert Morton, Student and Affairs Liaison, and Keith Graves, AMU Graduate

October is Crime Prevention Month. In the spirit of celebrating how law enforcement officers protect and serve the public, this month’s alumni spotlight is Keith Graves. Keith is an American Military University (AMU) graduate, police officer and instructor with a master’s degree in criminal justice.

Keith Graves, AMU Alumnus

Developing a Law Enforcement Foundation

Keith is a third-generation law enforcement officer. His father and great-grandfather were both police officers, and he grew up in a neighborhood filled with police officers and firefighters.

Service to your community and your country was a big deal in Keith’s neighborhood. It was a different time in the United States of America when law enforcement officers were considered heroes for serving and protecting neighborhoods, which led Keith to develop an instinct to serve and protect. 

Because he came from a family of police officers, entering the criminal justice field was a no-brainer for Keith. He has always seen the importance of being able to help people and prefers to not be cooped up in an office. 

Entering the Criminal Justice Field

In 1987, Keith served in the Army Reserves as a combat engineer and later got a job as a police officer with the City of Livermore Police Department. Over time, Keith received special assignments like Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) and Narcotics investigations, which would shape the rest of his career. 

In 1995, Keith became a narcotics/vice detective. He was the California Narcotics Officer of the Year in 2016 and also won a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) California Hero award.

He has held assignments as a training sergeant, patrol sergeant, community-oriented policing officer, traffic officer and SWAT Team Leader. Keith was also supervisor for the Special Operations Unit, a unit tasked with narcotics, vice, and gang investigations.

In addition, Keith went to the prestigious Drug Recognition Expert course and became a Drug Recognition Expert Instructor (IACP #3292). Keith notes, “I was good at teaching and began teaching a variety of drug-related subjects.” He eventually taught both the Drug Recognition Expert course and the California Narcotics Officers’ Association Drug Abuse Recognition Course.

Keith has also taught at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Academy and developed several drug courses for the California Narcotics Officers Association. Keith has taught thousands of officers and businesses around the world about drug use, drug trends, compliance training, and drug investigations.

Taking Classes as an Adult Learner

Keith earned his bachelor’s degree in management at St. Mary’s University of California. As an adult learner, taking classes wasn’t easy for Keith. He says, “I was working and had a family while I was going to school. It was worth it, but it took a toll on the whole family.”

Keith chose AMU for his master’s degree because the online format offered more flexibility and was easier on his career and family. This format enabled Keith to study on his own time and spend more time with his family. 

During his time in the master’s degree in criminal justice, Keith enjoyed a well-rounded program that added to his law enforcement knowledge. Keith says, “By far, my favorite class was INTL631, Criminal Intelligence. Part of my duties as a narcotics detective was also doing drug intelligence. We never had formal training in it, and this class helped me immensely in my day-to-day duties.”

RELATED: Online Education vs. the Traditional College Experience

Starting a Training Company

In 2017, Keith retired and now he owns a company specializing in drug investigation training. His company, Graves and Associates, offers classes across the United States and around the world each year. Keith has taught thousands of officers and businesses around the world about drug use, drug trends, compliance training, and drug investigations.

Keith says, “I am lucky to have the opportunities I have now. I started out as a beat cop in a mid-sized California city, and now I am the CEO of an international training company.”

Supporting His Family and Other Officers

Of this family, Keith says, “I have been married to my wife for 29 years, and my kids turned out to be great people contributing to our community. My daughter is an elementary school teacher, and my son is in law enforcement. I am very proud of them all.” 

In Keith’s free time, he likes to support organizations that benefit retired law enforcement officers. He says, “When you hang up your badge, you do not get to forget all of the bad things you saw in your career, and it takes a toll.” Keith created a retiree association in his state, and it provides peer support and other services to its members. 

RELATED: The Past, Present and Future of Policing from a NYPD Veteran

Advice to Future Students

Keith also has advice for students who seek to enter the criminal justice field. He advises, “Take as much training as you can. From degrees to certificates to webinars, training is the key to improving yourself.”

He also says that students who are interested in police work should talk to as many people as they can, from field officers to police chiefs. He says, “Everyone in the criminal justice field has knowledge that can increase your experience and your worldview.”

About the Author

John Robert Morton is a Student & Alumni Affairs Liaison and has been with the University for 13 years. His bachelor’s degree in European history is from Troy University in Troy, Alabama. He also completed master’s degrees in political science and sports management from American Military University. As a liaison, John Robert enjoys helping students and alumni to achieve their personal and professional goals.

About Our Department

The AMU and APU Student and Alumni Affairs Office is dedicated to sustaining lifelong relationships with university alumni by providing engaging opportunities to stay involved and connected. We work closely with a variety of stakeholders to strengthen the alumni experience and to offer a variety of benefits, services, activities, and events throughout the year.

As a team, we work to build and sustain relationships with alumni along their personal and professional journeys. We actively look for ways to recognize and showcase alumni, telling their stories to motivate and encourage students in the pursuit of their goals.

If you are a member of the alumni community and are looking for ways to remain actively involved, please contact and speak with a member of the team.

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