Lessons In Law Enforcement

Four retired police officers shared their stories with Criminal Justice majors. The retired officers are (left to right) Becky Thompson, Tracey Johnson, Gail Barella and Loretta Arlotta.

Criminal Justice majors in Professor Donna Stuccio’s Law Enforcement Process (CRJ 226) course had the opportunity to learn from the voices of experience when they were joined in class by four retired police officers with more than 100 years of combined service. “Their collective wisdom was extremely valuable to my students as they work to learn about how police officers move through the challenges of the profession of law enforcement and the impact their careers had on them,” said Professor Stuccio.

The four retired officers who spent time with the class were:

  • Loretta Arlotta, 21 years with the Syracuse Police Department
  • Gail Barella, 32 years with the Geddes Police Department
  • Tracey Johnson, 26 years with the Syracuse Police Department
  • Becky Thompson, 32 years with the Syracuse Police Department
Tracey Johnson speaks with OCC Criminal Justice majors in a small group setting.

They spoke with the class as a whole, then broke up into smaller groups for question and answer sessions. “I wanted students to gather information about their careers, their decision to become an officer and the impact of that decision on their lives,” said Professor Stuccio.

Tracey Johnson shared with students her story of enrolling at OCC after graduating from Westhill High School. “I came for accounting because I was very good at math. When I got here I saw posters all over the place. They were looking for minorities and women to be police officers. I decided to do it. I saw what was happening here and it looked interesting.”

After earning a degree in Business Administration Johnson pursued a career in law enforcement and became a Syracuse Police Officer. During her 26 year tenure she regularly patrolled the west side of the city and specialized in interviewing children who had been involved in traumatic events. Johnson shared numerous stories with students from her career. She also explained to them the value of communicating with people. “90 percent of police work is talking people down. People are elevated and irritated. It’s better to listen to them and have them listen to you.”

“I hope that my students grasped how incredibly dedicated and brave these women were and still are,” said Professor Stuccio who is also a former Syracuse, North Syracuse and Cicero police officer. “The sacrifices they made for their community can never be underestimated. Their incredible willingness to share their lives with students is part of their continued commitment to our community.”

You can learn more about OCC’s Criminal Justice major here.

Carolyn Carbone, ’93 and Sarah Hassett, ’13

Syracuse Police Department Officer Carolyn Carbone, ’93 (left) and her daughter Officer Sarah Hassett, ’13 (right).
  • High School: Carbone – Fowler High School, Hassett – Solvay High School
  • Major at OCC: Criminal Justice

Carolyn Carbone and Sarah Hassett are the first mother and daughter duo in the history of the Syracuse Police Department. Before they became police officers, they earned Criminal Justice degrees from OCC. Carbone gave birth to Hassett while a student at OCC and utilized the on-campus day care, the Children’s Learning Center while she went to class. “I appreciate my mom more and more each day for working as hard as she did to get through school and provide for my brothers and me so we could have a better life,” Hassett said. Carbone shares a similar sentiment about her only daughter. “She makes me proud every day. I’m grateful we went to OCC and can share this experience of being police officers. It’s a bond that will be with us forever.”

Please take a moment, visit our Alumni web site and tell us how OCC impacted your life.

Homicide Squad Leader Visits Criminal Justice Club

Syracuse Police Department Homicide Squad leader Detective Sergeant Derek McGork (center) speaks with students in the Criminal Justice Club. Seated to the right is Criminal Justice Professor Jessica Field.

Onondaga Community College’s Criminal Justice Club is off to a strong start this academic year. The Club held its first meeting September 6. Guest speaker was Detective Sergeant Derek McGork of the Syracuse Police Department’s Homicide Squad. McGork asked students about their career aspirations within law enforcement, shared his career path and discussed the work he does today as one of the leaders of the Homicide Squad.

The Criminal Justice Club has a reputation for bringing outstanding guest speakers to campus. Experts who spent time with students in recent years include Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler and Melinda McGunnigle of the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office.

The Criminal Justice Club meets monthly, plans activities and takes part in community service. Anyone interested in joining the Criminal Justice Club can email Professor Peter Patnode at p.e.patnode@sunyocc.edu.

Mother and Daughter in Blue

Carolyn Carbone (left) and Sarah Hassett
Syracuse Police Department Officer Carolyn Carbone ’93 (left) and her daughter Officer Sarah Hassett ’13

Carolyn Carbone and Sarah Hassett are the first mother and daughter duo in the history of the Syracuse Police Department (SPD). Before they became police officers, they earned Criminal Justice degrees from OCC.

Carbone graduated from Fowler High School. Her father’s military service inspired her to go into law enforcement and the strong reputation of OCC’s Criminal Justice program brought her to campus. “As I researched the faculty I realized they were retired police officers. Being able to learn from former cops was very important to me.”

During Carbone’s time as a student she gave birth to her daughter. Carbone utilized the on-campus day care, the Children’s Learning Center while she went to class. She earned her degree in 1993.

Eighteen years later Carbone’s daughter, Sarah Hassett, graduated from Solvay High School. Once again the current generation was motivated by the previous generation. “My mom was my inspiration,” Hassett said. “She was a single mother to me and my three brothers and would tell us stories about what she did each day. I knew I wanted to become a cop.”

As a Criminal Justice major Hassett found herself drawn to two of her professors, David Owens and former Syracuse Police Officer Donna Stuccio. “When my mom found out I had them as teachers she could not say enough about them. I am sure they were pretty amused by the dynamic as well. I tried to draw as much knowledge from them as possible.”

Carbone at her daughter's graduation in August
Carbone at her daughter’s graduation in August

Today Carbone and Hassett find both humor and pride in being SPD’s first mother and daughter duo, especially when they respond to a scene together. “I tell my mom to stop creepin’ on me,” Hassett said laughing. “But I know she is only looking out for me especially if an urgent call comes in.”

Carbone knows their situation is unique and works to respect her daughter’s judgement and space. “If I come up on a call where she is already on the scene I continue to let her take the lead and work with her. We both have our ‘officer hats’ on at that point.”

That “officer mentality” has led both women to become closer since Hassett joined the force. “I appreciate my mom more and more each day for working as hard as she did to get through school and provide for my brothers and me so we could have a better life.” Carbone shares a similar sentiment about her only daughter. “She makes me proud every day. I’m grateful we can share this experience. It’s a bond that will be with us forever.”

 

 

A Conversation with the Chief

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler speaks to students at the Criminal Justice Club meeting.
Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler speaks to students at the Criminal Justice Club meeting.

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler was the main speaker at the Criminal Justice Club’s first forum of the academic year September 7 in Mawhinney Hall.

Fowler began by discussing his background. He was born and raised in St. Louis and the surrounding area. Fowler spent three years in the Army including being stationed at Fort Drum, worked as a counselor at Elmcrest Children’s Center and became a Syracuse Police officer in 1989. “My recipe for success is to outwork everybody around me,” Fowler told students. “Someone will notice and it will move you forward. If you’ve worked hard it will prepare you for the next level.”

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler
Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler

Fowler was named Syracuse Police Chief in December 2009. He told students when he retires in late 2017 he will be the second longest serving Chief in department history. Fowler also proudly shared that he rose to the ranks of both Deputy Chief and Chief faster than anyone in the history of the force.

During his question and answer session with students Fowler touched on numerous topics.

-Police and community relations:

“Everything is magnified now days. When something bad happens in law enforcement everything stops and everyone focuses on the bad. People don’t embrace the fact that what may have happened occurred on one day within a small time frame. No one bothers to look back and say, ‘What happened the other 364 days before this happened? What was the relationship then?’ All of your hard work goes right around the window because the attention is placed on the negative. The police cannot effectively function without the community. The community cannot effectively function without the police. The people that we serve deserve a police department that they have trust and confidence in and that’s what we at the Syracuse Police Department try to give them.”

 

-On the increased number of crime cameras in Syracuse:

“Our police department is smaller than it has ever been and we have an uptick in violence. It’s our goal to keep the community safe. We use the technology to serve as a deterrent. It becomes an investigative tool for those ignorant enough to commit the crime. We use our crime density map to show us where the highest concentration of violence is and that’s where we try to place our cameras.”

 

-What people can do about the number of guns in the community:

“If you see something, say something. The community is our eyes and ears. We need people to get in touch with us when they see things. We’re working very closely with the ATF and other federal partners to try to get a handle on this. It’s challenging right now.”

 

-On body cameras which Syracuse Police are in the process of acquiring:

“A lot of times we don’t get the full story when we are trying to figure out what happened. We seldom get the whole story or a true story. When you have a camera present and people know the camera is present it helps with both sides. Everybody benefits.”

 

To learn more about OCC’s Criminal Justice Club contact Professor Jessica Field at fieldj@sunyocc.edu or Professor Pete Patnode at p.e.patnode@sunyocc.edu.

Meet The Faculty: Donna Stuccio

Donna Stuccio
Professor and Department Chair, Criminal Justice and Public Safety

Hometown: Forty-Fort, Pennsylvania

Education: B.S. and M.S., Syracuse University; M.F.A., Goddard College.

History at OCC: In 1990 I began as an adjunct in Criminal Justice while also working as a patrol officer and evidence technician for the Syracuse Police Department. I began teaching full-time in 1994 and became department chair in 2012. I have also taught acting and playwriting here.

Favorite Student Story: New York State Trooper Craig Todeschini, who died in the line of duty in 2006, was my advisee, intern, and student while completing his criminal justice degree. We would engage in friendly banter in class as I attempted to sway him over to consider the Syracuse Police Department. But he was steadfast in his commitment to his life long quest to become a New York State Trooper. I remember him often smiling in the back row, unwavering every time we debated the pros and cons of each. Craig successfully completed our program and won a coveted spot with the law enforcement agency of his dreams. The tragedy of his untimely death overshadows the memory sometimes, but whenever I think of him, I do smile. Craig had that glint in his eye signalling the energy, focus, and determination to succeed which I hope takes hold of every student who crosses our threshold.

Little Known Fact: In June of 1972, I lived through a devastating flood in my small hometown of Forty-Fort. More than 2,000 coffins from the centuries old cemetery tucked into a bend in the Susquehanna river were unearthed by the force of the water breaking through the levee and they cruised through the town and beyond. The sight of water everywhere was peppered with the incongruency of burning buildings. I’m still trying to figure out how to turn it all into a stage play.

Meaningful Experiences Outside Education: The late Joseph Lotito produced and directed my very first play, “Blue Moon,” at Salt City Playhouse in 1999. It toured a bit and was published in the Journal of Women and Criminal Justice. I have been writing plays ever since. I currently serve as artistic director of Armory Square Playhouse, a playwrights collective that champions new plays written by local playwrights.

Gratitude: The opportunity to work at OCC changed the course of my life. I have been fortunate to work with so many spectacular people and engage with countless numbers of wonderful students. To quote my colleague, Professor Emeritus James Coates, “It’s the best job in the world.”

Jonathan Rovtar-Ruiz

Jonathan Rovtar-Ruiz always knew he wanted a career which focused on helping people. His challenge was finding the right career.

Rovtar-Ruiz came to OCC from Jamesville-Dewitt High School and enrolled in the College’s Nursing program but realized it wasn’t right for him. He struck up a conversation with Assistant Professor Peter Patnode in the Criminal Justice department and suddenly everything became clear. “I realized Criminal Justice was what I wanted to pursue. He drove everything home and taught me anything is possible if you try hard enough.

Rovtar-Ruiz did an internship with the Syracuse Police Department and loved it. As the President of the Criminal Justice Club he helped organize an event during the fall 2014 semester which brought emergency response vehicles from both the Syracuse Police Department and the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department up to campus. The event gave students the opportunity to get a first-hand look at the equipment police use and speak with law enforcement officers about career options. “For me it was a reminder I am pursuing the right career.”

Rovtar-Ruiz will graduate in May 2015. His goal is to work for either the Syracuse Police Department or the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department.

Criminal Justice Club’s Hands-on Learning

Students in OCC’s newly-formed Criminal Justice Club got a first-hand look at the career they’re considering when local law enforcement agencies brought their hardware to campus. The Syracuse Police Department contributed a cruiser and its Crisis Response Team truck, while the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department brought up a SWAT vehicle, a Bomb Squad truck and a cruiser for students to examine inside and out. Both agencies also had officers on hand for students to discuss career options with.

 

Students in Onondaga's Criminal Justice Club see how to operate a robot that is part of the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department's Bomb Squad.
Students see how to operate a robot that is part of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department’s Bomb Squad.

“This was a great experience for our students,” said Assistant Professor Peter Patnode. “We wanted to enhance the student’s overall experience. We learn a lot in class but this takes it to the next level. It allows students to get a first-hand look at the equipment. By speaking with police officers they realize they are people just like them.”

Jonathan Rovtar-Ruiz (Jamesville-Dewitt), a sophomore and President of the Criminal Justice Club, got a lot out of the event. “Today is a reminder for me that I am pursuing the right career. The opportunity to meet members of law enforcement up close and see what they work with is priceless.”

Sgt. John Stephens of the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department speaks with students about the proper way to use firearms.
Sgt. John Stephens of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department speaks with students about the proper way to use firearms.