An Evening With the University Police

Numerous unplanned occur­rences can find themselves wedged between the everyday obligations of a police officer at the University; A suspicious persons report, card access failure, and a fender bender in the parking lot happened last Thursday evening when Patrolman John Noonan was on duty.

The night shift began with a briefing, the way every shift change begins at the University Police De­partment. The other officers on duty for the night shift on Thurs­day, February 21 were Patrolman Stephen Pavich and Safety Officer Frank Lotorto.

The officers sat in the squad room and discussed what had happened during the previous shift and re­viewed any teletypes. A “teletype” is a notification sent over from an­other police department for them to be conscious of. In this instance, they had received a teletype about a missing persons report, a girl from a community campus nearby.

“We’re here to make sure that everything goes smoothly and that everybody is safe. That’s the most important thing,” said Noonan. He has worked for the University for ten years. Previously, he worked in Maplewood Township for 28 years as a Detective Lieutenant/Com­mander of the Detective Bureau. “It’s a secure, steady job and I like helping people. I actually took a cut in pay to be a cop,” he said. Prior to becoming a police officer, Noonan had a managerial position at Kings Super Market.

Paperwork and documentation is a big part of the job. Noonan said, “There’s a report for everything.” Officers must constantly document the status of their car (mileage, contents of the car, etc.) as well as their stops (if the buildings checked “okay”).

Noonan said, “They (the stu­dents) should feel safe here because they do have a police department. A lot of colleges don’t have a paid police department that are armed.”

According to stateuni­versity.com, Monmouth Uni­versity ranked as the fifth safest campus in New Jersey in 2011 and 2012 with a score of 91.72 out of 100. The top three safest cam­puses were community colleges with no dormitories, and William Paterson University of New Jer­sey took the number four spot.

Noonan also said he feels that campus police can intimidate the students. He said, “We’re not here to hurt them, we’re here to help them. And we’re all in this together, we all have this little township and we all have to get along.”

Throughout the night the ra­dio picked up other police station frequencies. There was a bank robbery in Colts Necks and de­tails of the robbery and suspect were constantly reported over the radio. MUPD works closely with the local police departments and will help them on calls when needed. “One night they had a shooting in Long Branch at a bar and they sent me over because they needed cops,” said Noonan.

The officers typically work in eight-hour shifts, five days a week. “We take our jobs very se­riously. I think of the kids here as my kids, I treat them as if they were my kids and I think when you have that frame of mind you’re going to extend yourself a little bit more for them,” said Noonan.

There are usually three to four police officers on duty at a time and they each have an assigned “post,” a specific section of cam­pus. There are three posts total.

The most common crimes found at the University are un­derage drinking and narcotics. Resident’s assistants or neigh­bors, rather than the police com­ing across them, call in most in­cidents. Noonan explained one of the biggest misconceptions about MUPD. “I know I’ve heard that some kids think that we’re just security, and that’s far from the truth,” he said.

The team is comprised of ca­reer and retired officers. A ca­reer officer means they were put through the police academy by the University. A retired offi­cer has previously gone through the academy separately from the University and worked at another police department. The Univer­sity currently only hires retired officers.

There is also a two-man detec­tive bureau, Detective Corporal Jeff Layton and Detective Ser­geant Ken Kennedy, responsible for the following up of inves­tigations and keeping property and contraband as well as keep­ing control of the fire alarms and cameras on campus. Layton has worked at the University for six years. Previously, Layton worked as a police officer in Ocean Township for 25 years. He said, “I switched (to detective) because I like the follow up work. It gave me a chance to do more than just take a report. You can get in­volved in a case in the beginning and follow it through the end.”

About two hours into the shift, the car was called to President Gaffney’s house for a suspicious persons call. The suspect ap­peared to be a “lookout,” a person that the University was alerted to be conscious of. The premises and surrounding side streets were searched and the officers came to the conclusion that she had left campus. It was suggested that be­cause the gates to the driveway were open and many of the lights were on that she thought it was a University event that was open to the public.

A fender bender in the library parking lot delayed the closing of the academic buildings, but Noonan was able to finish the job. Anything not finished in one shift rolls over to the officer in the fol­lowing shift. Every night, the of­ficer’s check, lock, and secure all academic and residential build­ings on campus.

Last fall semester, the MUPD began taking students as interns. “We normally get a letter from the Criminal Justice Department about a student interested in in­terning with us. We tried it once and it went well, so it is some­thing we are going to continue to do,” said Chief of Police William McElrath.

All of the officers of the Univer­sity Police Department stressed that the safety of students is their biggest concern. Noonan said, “No complaints about the kids here. All in all they’re just kids in college. As long as at the end of the night, everyone is safe in their beds.”

PHOTO TAKEN by Alexis Orlacchio