Dr. Manuel Zamora - Secure in Studies
April 03, 2014
A San Antonio native, Zamora joined the Houston Police Department in 1981, but even back then, his qualities as a teacher soon began to shine. After serving as a uniformed patrolman and then undercover vice and narcotics investigator, he was promoted to field training officer within his first five years on the force.
“That enabled me to help new recruits transition from the academy environment to the field environment,” Zamora said. “Then, every opportunity I had to develop a course and present the information to my colleagues, I did it. They were on topics related to a more intelligent approach to policing, as well as new ways to do our jobs better.”
“That is what really drew me here, the chance to put some of my background and experience to work for students.”
The courses he developed included everything from sexual assault, homicide and robbery investigations and police sociological perspectives to bio-terrorism, conflict resolution, and police officers and PTSD. But, he soon realized that he needed to continue his own education to remain credible to his peers, so he went back to school for his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Houston, a master’s in sociology from Houston-Clear Lake and a doctorate in social work from Houston-University Park. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
During that time, Zamora was also taking on positions of increasing rank and responsibility within the Houston PD, as well as conducting extensive research on a wide variety of law enforcement topics – all perfect preparation for a second career in higher education.
“That really wasn’t my plan,” Zamora said. “But as I ended my time at the police department, I knew that I had certain skill sets and knowledge that could be transferred. With my doctorate degree, one of my dissertation chairs said, ‘You’ve done a great job, but do something with your education.’ Those words stuck with me, and the more I tried to plan my future, I realized there would probably be a university out there that would want a practitioner with my background and experience. So I started looking.”
That was when Zamora heard about ASU’s new Center for Security Studies.
“When I looked into it, I saw that it was an excellent opportunity to help build a program from the ground up,” he said. “That is what really drew me here, the chance to put some of my background and experience to work for students. If you look at our department, the faculty have backgrounds that are really substantial, and that is a benefit to our students.”
A faculty member since 2011, Zamora now enjoys ASU’s close-knit community as he teaches courses in border and homeland security, including international human trafficking, drug policy and drug trafficking, terrorism and counter-terrorism, emergency management planning, weapons of mass destruction and research courses.
But, you cannot completely take the cop out of the professor, and Zamora still enjoys telling his favorite cop story about solving a violent sexual assault of a blind woman in Houston. Utilizing other witness statements and research that indicated most violent offenders do not stray far from home, he organized an audio line-up of suspects living close to the attack location that led to the victim identifying her attacker, who was sentenced to life in prison.
“I learned to see the world from the survivor’s perspective,” Zamora said, “and to see how difficult it is to have a challenge in life like a handicap. I also learned that if you take the right approach, you can get the evidence and get the person responsible.”
In addition to teaching, Zamora still makes regular presentations at professional law enforcement conferences and is on the editorial board of the CSS’s new publication, the e-Journal of Homeland and National Security Perspectives. In his limited spare time, he enjoys motorcycles and hunting. He recently bought a Harley-Davidson Road Glide, and has white-tail deer heads adorning his ASU office walls.
“Until I moved to West Texas, I didn’t know the extent of gun ownership,” Zamora joked. “I had to buy a couple extra guns just to keep up with some of the guys I work with.”
He also spends a lot of time on the road, commuting back and forth to Houston, where he and his wife, Linda, still maintain a home. They have four grown children, Chris, Eli, Jennifer and Nacol.