Through the white doors that lead to the side of Johnson Hall resides the Lehigh University Police Department, now a workplace for the department’s four new hires: Lora Martin, Richard Bringenberg, Michael Dragovich and Scott Ednie.
After the department decided to focus on expanding its staff following a couple of negative incidents that occurred off campus, the new officers began training for the job under the support of the administration and trustees.
“I felt excited and overwhelmed at the same time,” Martin said. “As a police officer, you are not just responsible for yourself, but for everyone.”
Chief of police Edward Shupp said the new officers don’t have the same experiences as someone who’s been an officer for 10 years, so every day is a new challenge for them.
Shupp talked about the meticulous and lengthy process new officers go through for training, which has evolved over the years. He said now they have to be with a field officer for a certain period of time to help them understand the policies and procedures, and how to represent the university well.
“It’s like anything else — you get better the more times you do it,” Martin said. “I sometimes find myself saying when I leave the scene, ‘How could I have done it better?'”
Martin said she’s had the opportunity to be trained by various officers. She said it’s interesting to see how each officer handles situations, and she feels like she took the best practices and parts of each officer’s style to apply to her own methods.
“There’s power in numbers,” James Surace, ’18, said. “There is something about actually getting out there and getting the first-on experience. You can only learn so much off a book or a computer. Off campus, it’s not under Lehigh jurisdiction. It’s harder to control things that happen there than things that happen on our campus.”
Shupp said the training process is much different from what he went through 35 years ago when he first started with the department as a patrolman. He said the training wasn’t as lengthy and the advancement in technology has added to it, but the department is equipped to handle the seasoned veterans and progress.
“There are so many things that run through your head when receiving a call from dispatch,” Martin said. “I’m reminded how important communication (is). Keeping an open mind when arriving to the scene is imperative because it can be completely different from what you originally thought. We all work as a team. This includes, administrative, police officers, dispatch and security officers to complete the job at hand.”
As a female police officer, Martin highlighted her work in helping other women feel safe in addition to her daily responsibilities under the LUPD.
She said she and Ednie recently became certified instructors for the Rape Aggression Defense program, which began as a women’s self defense program. This semester, it was offered for the first time to men, as well. She said she encourages females to sign up for it because it teaches basic self defense tactics in an environment that is safe and comfortable.
“(A few weeks ago), there was an assault,” said Angie Rizzo, ’18, regarding incidents that occur at Lehigh. “Obviously those things are scary, but with all the news with what’s happening at other colleges, it doesn’t really stick out because it’s happening everywhere. I don’t think any college campus is immune to it. I definitely support Lehigh making more steps to being safe.”
However, Sarah Simon, ’18, had a different outlook. She said she rarely sees police officers out when students are walking alone in the evening. She believes that they’re more focused on the issue of students drinking, because she mostly seems them break up off-campus parties, but Martin emphasized the understanding the LUPD has for students.
“Our police department is more about actively teaching the value of being law abiding,” Martin said. “We understand that these are young adults still learning and everyone makes mistakes. At Lehigh, we want to make sure the life lessons they learn are not necessarily the one’s that are going to stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
Martin said a difficult aspect of the job is not becoming personally attached to situations. She said she wants students to achieve their goals while at Lehigh, and not be burdened in the future by a poor decision.
For the new officers, Shupp had one specific piece of advice.
“Think, evaluate, then react,” Shupp said. “Don’t react first.”