The University Police Department employs several GW graduate students who want to get a taste of law enforcement while pursuing their master’s degrees.
Students take on jobs at UPD for a variety of reasons, including job experience or just to make a living. Working for UPD can be a particularly attractive option for students studying forensic sciences and sociology – the University offers free or discounted classes in those fields if the class is work-related.
UPD Special Police Officer Aaron Morningstar, a graduate student of environmental engineering who will graduate in summer 2006, said that while student-officers encounter difficult situations, the pros of the job outweigh the cons.
“There have been instances where I would have liked to (have) seen different outcomes, but I am employed to assure the GW community remains safe and orderly,” he said, adding that he is not allowed to discuss specific incidents. “It’s never pleasurable to see members of the GW community in difficult situations. However we are employed to enforce D.C. law and University policy.”
Morningstar said that despite having to intrude on fellow students’ parties or write them up for misconduct, he sees the most rewarding part of the job as helping people in need.
“Fortunately, I feel the members of the GW community are good people, therefore the unfavorable situations are few per capita,” he said. “An overwhelming majority of my encounters with the GW community are persons seeking me out because they need help. This is the positive aspect that makes the job worth while.”
Though the job can often involve disciplinary action against peers, Morningstar said that his friends at GW are not critical of his job with UPD.
“I found most of my friends respected what I chose as a career path,” he said. “College exposes you to all types of professions and personalities. I think it gives you a greater appreciation and insight to why people choose to follow certain paths in life.”
Ryan Beebe, a graduate student of engineering management with a concentration in crisis, emergency and risk management, decided to take on a job as UPD master patrol officer. He came to work for UPD in November 2003, after moving to the D.C. area from his home in Delaware.
“Coming from a small police department in Delaware, working in the District has allowed me respond to a wider variety of calls and experience many different situations that I may not have otherwise,” he said.
Beebe said that as a graduate student, he treats other officers and peers professionally, and expects to be treated accordingly. He said being a student and a UPD officer are not conflicting interests.
UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said that the department advertises to college graduates, and it can help officers achieve professional goals.
“Oftentimes you will have people who come here to get hands-on experience, and many end up staying to make a full, professional career out of working here,” she said. “Our advertising focuses around law enforcement job-recruitment Web sites and ads in newspapers. We also send announcements to two-year and four-year colleges so that students in the field will consider UPD an option.”
To become part of the department, one must fill out an application form available at http://gwired.gwu.edu/upd or at UPD’s headquarters. Because officers must be at least 21 years old, the program is geared toward master’s students. All officers are required to work 40 hours per week, and many opt for working night or evening shifts.
GW graduate student Courtney Tallman, whose concentration is business and public administration and criminal justice, works alongside Stafford as her executive assistant. GW employs both graduate and undergraduate students as office assistants.
Tallman said that working for UPD is rewarding due to the professional opportunities it allows and the hands-on experience it gives her. She graduated from GW in May with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
“My friends have been supportive of my job, and enjoy hearing about my experience with the department,” she said. “I learn something new every day. Any job that deals with confidentiality is never easy, but it’s crucial to the operations of the department that the confidentiality is kept.”
In addition to office assistant positions, UPD also offers undergraduate students jobs, among them working as a security officer and an intern.
This article appeared in the October 24, 2005 issue of the Hatchet.