Students and Police Officers Connect Over Hiring Processes and Perspectives

Students from RWU’s School of Justice Studies met with local police chiefs and officers to discuss their perspectives on current issues affecting the police force

Students and police networking
Students Madison Burdy and Brianna Messa-Mastronardi talk with Newport Police Officer Brittany Ripke ’12 ‘19M.
By Anna Cohen

BRISTOL, R.I. Can police officers have tattoos? What are the physical fitness requirements for joining the police force, and, ultimately, what can police departments do to make more people want to enter the profession?  On January 29, 2020, students and police officers discussed their answers to these questions and more. 

Representatives from five police agencies met with students studying criminal justice, forensic science and legal studies to talk about police department hiring. West Greenwich Police Chief Richard Ramsey facilitated a roundtable discussion followed by time for informal networking. Over the course of two hours, every voice in the room was heard.

“We want to have some interchange between police officers and students to ask what barriers there are for entering the service,” said Assistant Dean of the School of Justice Studies David Lambert. 

The discussion spanned both practical and philosophical concerns of the students. No topic was off-limits, and participants openly talked about hot-button issues including race, gender and media representations of the police force. Police officers talked through the hiring process in detail, clearing up misconceptions and offering advice. Students and police officers asked and answered questions of one another, creating a reciprocal learning experience.

Students and police officers meet
Students and police officers shared their thoughts and questions in the discussion facilitated by West Greenwich Police Chief Richard Ramsey.

“We’re not getting as many students from colleges because they don’t know we want their application. We want that application,” said Newport Police Officer Brittany Ripke ’12 ‘19M, who got her start as a criminal justice major at RWU and returned for her Master’s in Leadership. 

“Having a female police officer in the room was encouraging. I already found my niche, but for other people, broadcasting the hiring process so they know what they are getting themselves into is helpful,” said Brianna Messa-Mastronardi, an RWU senior studying criminal justice and psychology.

While Messa-Mastronardi isn’t considering a career as a police officer, other students, such as RWU sophomore Cameron Quinn, attended with hopes to enter the police force after graduating. 

“I think it will help my career because I’ll have more information on the hiring process,” said Quinn. “I learned you don’t have to be amazing at everything. They will help you through and help you get there.”

The roundtable discussion followed a full day workshop for law enforcement professionals at RWU. Local police officers attended this event on best practices in recruitment and retention, hosted by the West Greenwich Police Department and co-sponsored by RWU’s Justice Systems Training and Research Institute (JSTRI.) 

"We want to hear directly from you,” Ramsey said to the students. “The most important thing I ever do is hire an officer. After I’m gone, they will still be serving the community.”