Leadership & Staff
B. J. Wagner, MS
B. J. Wagner, MS, possesses a unique blend of first-hand law enforcement experience and a deep knowledge of police policy and operating procedures, program evaluation, technical advising and procedural reviews. A noted leader in law enforcement policy, her 2019 review of the Austin Police Department resulted in significant departmental policy improvements regarding the city’s audit response and its capacity to capably deal with mental health-related situations. And, as the primary architect of the RIGHT Care-Dallas program, and engineer of many of Texas’ prison reentry systems, her work has led to the development of nationally recognized and internationally awarded law enforcement, criminal justice, crisis intervention and response systems.
B. J. began her career in law enforcement as a county jailer and later as a law enforcement officer in rural, urban, and border areas of Texas. In response to the increasing number of contacts with persons with mental illness she experienced as a law enforcement officer, she chose to pursue studies in clinical neuropsychology and counseling psychology at Texas A&M and began working in community mental health clinics. She continued consulting with the field of law enforcement on best practices as she provided services to clientele through local mental health authorities, and has developed curriculum for disciplines across the criminal justice system on mental health awareness, symptom recognition, and verbal de-escalation techniques.
At the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), B.J. developed front end diversion and continuity of care systems for offenders with special care needs and guided Medicaid implementation for limited populations within the State’s prison systems. While there, B.J. worked closely with the Department of State Health Services to redesign the adult assessment for admission to community mental health services to include criminogenic risk factors to ensure all persons being assessed in the public mental health system also had criminogenic needs addressed. In 2015, after serving as Deputy Director for the Reentry and Integration Division at TDCJ, B. J. joined the Texas Veterans Commission during the regular legislative session. She worked closely with governmental relations analyzing proposed legislation and advising on emerging trends and state and local initiatives to address the needs of trauma affected veterans at risk of justice involvement.
In 2015, B.J. joined the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI), leading its work in Smart Justice. In that capacity, she has helped expand its reach to larger behavioral and health systems and assisted communities across Texas to both increase prevention and intervention services and reduce chronic crisis cycles and justice involvement for people with complex healthcare needs.
In October of 2019, BJ was appointed by the University of North Texas Dallas through a unique relationship with MMHPI as the Interim Executive Director of the Caruth Police Institute. In this role, B.J. will set strategic goals and plans to shape the future of the Institute’s police training, education, academic offerings, and research, as well as determining the development of capacity for evaluation, policy analysis, and technical assistance.
She is currently pursuing a PhD in Qualitative Criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Director of Professional Development
Shayna Vincent joined the Caruth Police Institute in 2010 and serves as the Director of Professional Development. She has developed and implemented curriculum for a variety of topics for all courses, with a heavy focus in Conflict Resolution. She manages outreach efforts to seek new faculty members and oversees leadership programing.
Shayna has a passion for helping first responder families and has developed the Supporting the First Responder Family Program that has served over 34 public safety agencies in Texas and Oklahoma.
She previously worked at PaxUnited National Mediation Center where she assisted in implementing a nationally recognized peer mediation program. Shayna earned a Master’s in Alternative Dispute Resolution from Southern Methodist University and a Bachelor’s in Sociology from the University of Texas at Arlington.
Shayna’s volunteer work includes years as a Dallas Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for abused and neglected children and a call responder/counselor for the North Texas Suicide and Crisis Hotline.
Courtney Ripley holds an M.S. in criminal justice from the University of North Texas and has worked for the Caruth Police Institute (CPI) since January 2018. She also works full-time as a financial crime analyst for a consulting company specializing in anti-money laundering and virtual fraud trends. Courtney has built curriculum for a trauma recognition course for police, fire, and EMS where the focus is on the importance of mental wellness and recovering from traumatic experiences faced as a first responder. She has taught the trauma recognition course, along with others such as critical thinking, for CPI. Courtney is using the experience she has gained from those projects in order to help with curriculum creation, facilitating, and overall report writing on project proposals.
ABLE Program Manager
Jeff’s inspiration comes from his family and his faith. Jeff has been married to his dynamic and supportive wife, Pam, for twenty-two years. They have three incredible kiddos – Jefferson, Franklin, and Isabelle. Jeff loves spending time with family, friends, and his K-9 children: Bella (Cane Corso), Smokey (Australian Shepherd), and Jerry (Border Terrier).
Jeff has well over twenty-years of combined experience working in law enforcement, emergency management, and education (secondary and higher education). He currently serves as the ABLE Program Manager for the Caruth Police Institute at UNT Dallas. Prior to serving in his current role, Jeff served with the University of North Texas Health Science Center (Fort Worth) Police Department in multiple and progressive capacities: Lieutenant, Captain, and Chief of Police (ret.). In addition to his command staff experience, Jeff has served with the Denton County Sheriff’s Office (Operations Support Unit), the UNT Police Department (Patrol, Crime Prevention, and Community Relations), and the City of Southlake DPS (Emergency Services Intern). Also, Jeff has seven years of experience working in the railroad industry (Hulcher Professional Services) and four years of experience working as a high school teacher for the Denton Independent School District; instructing the Law Enforcement I, Law Enforcement II, Principles of Law, and Disaster Response courses. Jeff holds a Texas Education Agency (TEA) teacher certification (trades and industrial), TCOLE Master Peace Officer certification, TCOLE law enforcement instructor proficiency certification, TCOLE firearms instructor certification, and TCOLE Mental Health Peace Officer certification. In addition to instructing firearms training for law enforcement officers, Jeff has extensive experience instructing in the following areas: TASER, OC Spray, ALERRT, PPCT, and Gracie Combatives.
Jeff is a recent graduate of Texas Christian University’s Leadership, Executive, and Administrative Development (LEAD) Program. Jeff holds a Master of Arts in Leadership from Dallas Baptist University (2018), a Master of Science in Human Relations and Business from Amberton University (2006), and a Bachelor of Science in Emergency Administration and Planning from the University of North Texas (2002). In addition to his education, Jeff has an extensive martial arts background that began in 1984 and includes the following disciplines: Shin-Toshi Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, and Modern Arnis. Jeff participated in the 2011 Texas Police Olympics, medaling in three of his four events; however, he suffered a significant injury that prevented him from competing in his fourth event.
Melissa came to the University of North Dallas at Texas after leaving state service with Department of Corrections in which she held an Administrative Assistant III position with the Aurora Parole Office. The newest member of Caruth Police Institute, Melissa carries a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice in which she obtained in 2014. She also has completed Department of Correction Academy and has gained a lot of skills and knowledge about policing and education. Melissa is looking forward to continuing her education and purse a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice.
Melissa is inspired by her 10-year old daughter named Carleigh Jean in which she takes pride and joy! As a single mother, Melissa focuses on making time a priority! She is dedicated to making the most of her time and loves to share it with her daughter doing a lot of outside activities in which they both enjoy. For example, swimming, museums, and lots of water parks!
In addition to her loving her daughter, Melissa carries a lot of faith and devotion in her. She loves seafood, knitting, and all the outdoors has to offer, as long as it is sunny!
Dr. Lashunda Mason-Horton
Senior Academic Program Manager
Dr. Horton has been working in higher education for 15+ years in various capacities. She possesses both teaching and academic advisement experience within the field of Criminal Justice and Criminology. In addition, she has taught a variety of courses within both disciplines. Prior to coming to CPI, Dr. Horton was an Online Lecturer for the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Sam Houston State University. She has also taught at other institutions of Higher Education which include but are not limited to Virginia State University, Texas Southern University, and Central Piedmont Community College.
Dr. Horton has program management experience in Higher Education as well. While employed at Virginia State University as an Assistant Professor, she served as the Program Coordinator for the Bachelor of Science Program in Criminal Justice for 500 + undergraduate students. Some of Dr. Horton’s research interests include but are not limited to public policy, quantitative methods, and criminology. In addition, she is certified to teach and has online teaching experience. Dr. Horton has experience creating both online and digital course content for institutions of Higher Education as well as for Sage Publications.
Dr. Horton earned her Ph.D. in Administration of Justice from Texas Southern University, a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Grambling State University and Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Lastly, Dr. Horton is a member of Alpha Phi Sigma, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society.