By Brielle Bryan
Having to talk to students when they’re at their worst, Campus Police can often be perceived in a negative way. What the students don’t know is how funny and personable the officers can be.
“I think the students are kind of afraid to look at us or speak to us a little bit, thinking that we’re going to ticket their car or lock somebody up,” Officer Orlando Segarra said. “We have to work hard to try and get their confidence up, so that they can trust us.”
Officer Tania Ryan told me that when she walks around the campus on patrol, the kids freak out when she says “Hi” to them.
“A lot of times, we carry this facade that we’re just angry,” Ryan said. “Although that may appear to be the case, we’re very approachable.”
The officers love to talk to the students, even if it’s not about safety-related matters.
“A lot of the time, the students really enjoy just talking to us about anything,” Sgt. Matthew Mastrosimone said. “Not just about crime, but about anything in life.”
While a lot of students might perceive the presence of the officers on campus as strictly there to enforce the law, they don’t realize how much the officers really care about the students’ well-being.
“I like when some of the kids are open enough to ask for advice about something,” Ryan said. “Or when they feel comfortable enough to say, ‘Hey, I’m having a bad day. I just need to sit here.’”
After speaking with eight different Campus Police officers, I’ve learned that most of them have at least two kids. Some of the officers have children who are very young, and others have children who are in college
Most of the officers mentioned that they love going home and spending time with their families, however, a lot of them spend 12-hour days making sure that the campus is safe.
The officers also talked about their hobbies when they are off-duty.
In his free time, Mastrosimone goes on long motorcycle rides to New England, participates in Spartan races and hikes with his sons.
Lt. James Lopez likes to spend time outdoors with his sons, as well. Lopez said he likes to go backpacking and has hiked the Grand Canyon with his boys.
“Ideally, when I retire, I could just get a backpack and go,” Lopez said. “No phone. No email. No internet. No nothing.”
Officer Michael Lukosius and Dispatcher Michael Allen have both bowled professionally. However, for Allen, nothing beats lighting a candle while listening to jazz music, preferably Boney James.
In addition to hobbies, quite a few of the officers have had different careers before becoming an officer.
Sgt. Bob Clement worked in finance on Wall Street for many years, but sought a career change after 9/11.
Allen worked for the Department of Homeland Security for a while before he came to the College.
“I love dealing with the students,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, it feels really good to go home knowing that I assisted and helped other people out.”
Segarra worked at a smoke shop in Trenton, N.J., before he became a police officer in Camden, N.J. He said his brother was an officer for seven years when he decided to follow in his footsteps.
Eventually, the department in Camden folded and went from a city to a county department. Ryan was originally a police officer in Camden, as well. Ryan and Segarra came to the College after the department change and have been happy ever since.
Officer Philip Apgar wrote parking tickets down the shore, worked security for a casino and was security for a mental hospital before he worked at the College.
“I have experience with people from all walks of life,” Apgar said. “I’m very diverse in what I’ve done in my life, and it helps me relate to people.”
The Campus Police officers are happy to be working at the College and are constantly giving back to the community.
Mastrosimone said he started the Community Policing Program, where he works with the Community Advisers to get any furniture or anything else the students might want to donate to people in need. Mastrosimone said he’s worked a lot with organizations such as Womanspace and HomeFront in Trenton.
Campus Police has also implemented a program called RAD, or Rape Aggression Defense systems. Mastrosimone said RAD is a 16-hour self-defense training course that two officers, including Ryan, are certified to teach.
Mastrosimone said Campus Police will usually set up the dates for RAD and then send out an email to all of the students. The class has limited spots and is first-come, first-serve for any student that wishes to sign up.
Campus Police also likes to donate bikes, according to Interim Chief Tim Grant. Campus Police will hold onto any abandoned bikes they find on campus, and if those bikes aren’t claimed, they will donate them to a non-profit company. Recently, Campus Police donated bikes to Second Life Bikes in Asbury Park, N.J.
Campus Police give back to the community because they want to have a positive impact on other people’s lives.
The students should not be afraid to talk to Campus Police because the officers are regular people who just want to help.
From my personal experience with Campus Police, and with police officers in general, I can honestly say that whether you are in a crisis situation or just looking for someone to talk to, don’t let fear keep you from reaching out to these amazing people.
“It’s important to open up the lines of communication between Campus Police and the community,” Ryan said. “Even if it means being a little personable.”