NEW WILMINGTON, Pa.– College professors are often seasoned in the department they teach. Biology professors usually run their own experiments. Education professors often teach at multiple schools. Criminal Justice professor Louis Gentile is indeed no exception; as he was an undercover officer.
Gentile has a long history of working in law enforcement, starting with the Pennsylvania State Police in 1972. Shortly after that, he was commissioned to work at an organized crime unit, which deals heavily with undercover jobs. He was also in the United States Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Pennsylvania, with the position of law enforcement coordinator. He rose to Director of the Bureau of Narcotics in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Finally, in 1998, Gentile started his own company of investigations, now known as the CSI Corporate Security Investigations Inc. He continues to help run this company, but on the side has taught at many colleges about criminal justice, including at Westminster College.
Out of all of these jobs, he seems to have enjoyed going undercover the most. He says it gave him the most satisfaction, and that it was fun to go into work during that time. However, working as an undercover agent isn’t just your job, it’s practically an entire lifestyle.
“I know that myself and my family had to, sort of live, another life. I had another name; I had another identity. Everything else was another; another driver’s license, another vehicle registration, another everything,” Gentile says, “My children had to know it, my wife had to know how to answer a telephone under another name. The main thing about working undercover, is you have to fit in to be a part of the community. So, you have to act like them. There has to be a reason for you to be there. You have to get over that sense of suspicion, of all of the sudden a stranger coming into your midst.”
As an example, he explained that for a particular case involving adult bookstores, he had to, reluctantly, become a kind of expert on pedophilia, as this type of deviance is common among that kind of environment.
These undercover operations have helped put many criminals behind bars. However, Gentile hasn’t just arrested people and left it at that. He has volunteered to teach college classes to inmates before, right at the infamous Western State Penitentiary! He taught night classes for seven years, through a program that enables convicts to earn a degree while serving time.
He earned many of the inmates’ respect and even their friendship. For example, the inmate Richard Dicks became such close friends with Gentile, that he recently wanted Gentile to see him before he died. He knows another “returning citizen” that spent most of his life in jail and is now being assisted by Gentile in finding a job.
The college program that connected him to multiple inmates, however, was taken away. Gentile believes the program was useful and helpful. They even conducted a survey, testing out the percentage of returning inmates that earned the degree while incarcerated, compared to returning inmates that did not do the program. The return rate for people without the degree was about 75%, while people with a degree was 11%.
Gentile mentioned other issues with the American justice system. However, he does have some faith in it.
“Is it the best system in the world?” he asked, “Absolutely. Absolutely. But we have a long way to go.”
Gentile is here at Westminster in the place of another professor. However, he says he enjoys the environment of the campus and plans on continuing to teach here.
Another enjoyable aspect of his life is his family. He says the divorce rate for people in similar professions is very high. However, he’s been married for 42 years.
As he continues to cherish his marriage, he wants to keep his investigator company running. He also wants to teach the next generations about criminal justice, and tell them all about his excellent experiences.