During his 25 years with the Massachusetts State Police, Paul Zipper has investigated fires and explosions as well as murders and cases of child abuse.
As a highly regarded arson detective, he has also testified as an expert witness in more than a dozen cases and as a fact witness in hundreds of other cases. That’s his day job. At night, Lt. Paul Zipper transforms into Professor Zipper.
An adjunct faculty member at Northern Essex Community College, Paul Zipper, Ph.D developed and teaches Juvenile Criminal Justice and Criminal Law, two online courses in which he draws from his real life experiences. Most of his interaction with students is by computer, although he also teaches an internship class in which he meets with students working as interns in courts, police departments, mental health facilities and other organizations.
”It’s good to be able to draw on real experiences while having a good academic background,” Zipper said. “I’ve done the work, the job, but I also understand how to navigate the educational process. Being able to take principals in the text and bring those to life with real world anecdotes allows me to explain concepts form a real world perspective.”
He teaches young people who want to work in local law enforcement, become lawyers or counselors working with juveniles or in probation, as well as older students working in the field of law enforcement who want a college degree.
“My younger students, with less real life experience, tend to have an unrealistic views of how the system works,” Zipper said. “Some of them want to be a CSI, but have no idea what it is.
”It’s not about people in white lab coats running around with guns and pressing a button at the lab to solve a case,’’ he said. “I talk about the day-to-day drudgery of knocking on doors, interviewing witnesses and spending hours and hours writing reports and search warrants. The sheer amount of time it takes to do a professional job is never talked about in television shows. They can’t show all the dead-ends you might run into. And the actors they use don’t remotely reflect what it’s really like to interview a homeless drug addict ex-convict.