Seventeen students from the University of Central Florida had a first-hand look at the English criminal justice system during

a 12 day visit to the United Kingdom this Spring Break.

The goal of the trip was to give students a better understanding of the American justice system, which is founded on the UK model. Accompanied by Criminal Justice Associate Professor Ross Wolf, students visited police departments and museums, sat in on court hearings and toured other landmarks, including the River Thames and New Scotland Yard.

“We examined policing in some of the most rural areas in England, and the busiest metropolitan area, London,” Wolf said.

In addition to exploring the streets with law enforcement officers, students also attended seminars the Universities of Chester and Gloucestershire. Criminal justice students from Gloucestershire will visit the U.S. next year in a similar study abroad program.

While in Gloucestershire, the students spoke with a reporter from the UK’s BBC Radio. During the interview, the students shared stories about their trip, including experiencing the formality of the English court system, where justices wear traditional wigs and robes.

The culture shock didn’t end there, students said.

The group toured a jail, where they learned that in the UK, only one inmate is placed in each cell. They also went on police ride-alongs, where they saw how officers depend on closed-circuit television cameras, a practice that is just beginning to take off in the U.S.

“Many facets of the criminal justice system in the UK were similar to that of the U.S., however we were shocked to learn about some of the differences between the two,” said master’s student Amber Perenzin.

Volunteer community policing is a major aspect of the UK system, and many of the officers patrol unarmed, relying on special de-escalation tactics rather than weapons. Students got a firsthand look at community policing when they met with constabulary from the Metropolitan Police Service.

“I am a reserve deputy with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, so I felt honored to meet fellow law enforcement volunteers that are at such a high rank in one of the busiest cities in the world,” said Stephen Fickey, a senior. “I had an amazing time on this trip and would definitely do it all over again if I could.”