By:Ashleigh S. Wilkerson:
October 17, 2018
There’s construction which explains the unevenness of the ground and the small rocks everywhere. Most of the cars are parked in the back of the building towards the garage so it almost seems vacant aside from the two vehicles alongside the curb. The door is wide open which explains the breeze blowing against the flyers posted on the bulletin board to the left. No sound at all most likely because the front desk window is down, closed at 4:30p.m. in bold print on a sign. The old-fashioned phone is still accessible. The woman on the other end immediately answers connects to Sergeant Adrian Acevedo. He says he will come out shortly.
Within moments, Acevedo walks out from the back opening the door beside the front desk window. Computer stations lead the way before approaching the final destination. Renovations are not limited to the outside. His door is rather engrossing.
“I apologize for being hard to reach. I’m a little flustered. I’ve been off, today is my first day back in a while. I have to schedule extra day jobs for next week, I have events at Seton Hall University, a speaking engagement today, and calls to respond to as well,” said SGT Acevedo.
Currently he’s leaned back in his chair with his cell-phone in reach, computer opened and notepad near with various things jotted down. On his electronic device, he’s searching incidents from now until six months back one of which includes an e-mail from Public Safety and Security at Seton Hall University. He says that there have been complaints at 366 Wilden Place in South Orange, and 24 reports including noise, criminal mischief, and arrest.
“This is most likely a fraternity house. We know that you are supposed to have fun, but you’re also occupying a house with people that are going to college and people that are not in college. If it becomes danger or a nuisance, then it becomes a problem,” said SGT Acevedo.
He continues looking through records, narrowing the search from the last six months to the past month. He observes over the thousand plus calls received, only 34 contributes to the Tier 1 calls. Such calls include burglary, theft, assault, trespassing, and criminal mischief.
“The calls there are responsive, but the officers being proactive, keep them down. You have to respond to everyone that complains. We have a minimum manpower of four required to patrol. Imagine trying to address everything,” said Acevedo.
Acevedo, who has been a South Orange police officer for almost 21 years, is on top of arrest, traffic enforcement, drug prevention, educational courses and activities, spin classes, drone lessons, and fatherhood. On a typical day, he does anything from talking to first grade Girl Scouts, to reviving a person of an over dose. Although he says at times the SOPD is short on help, he enjoys every aspects of being able to help others in serving and protecting the community.
Acevedo says a lot has changed in his almost 21 years on the job. Mental illness is a very important factor in certain arrest. Traffic laws are a big deal. He believes they help in eliminating drugs, unsafe cars, and drivers.
“Drugs are so powerful. If you’re stealing or dealing drugs, you’re arrested. If you’re encountered using drugs, we don’t want to arrest you. Instead, we want to help you detox, or find help within a program. You have drug dealers lacing drugs with fentanyl, which makes them super potent. They could go right through your skin. This is a risk for officers as well,” said Acevedo.
His phone rings again and he leans back against his chair for a second time. The call was casual, didn’t seem too serious. He still maintains great eye contact. To the left there are binders labeled for different things, including Seton Hall. Then, there was a black bullet-proof vest sitting out by itself. His call ends. As he hung up the phone, he mentions his speaking engagement again. He isn’t sure about what exactly, nor how many listeners, but he says he’s prepared to wing it. He packs up, and walks over towards the vest to put it on.
The discussion doesn’t end there. He needs to make his way to the class at Seton Hall University for his presentation. The department is approximately two minutes from campus, but it took him longer than expected to park and walk to the Arts and Sciences building. He’s looking for room 111, Policing in Modern Society. Prior to speaking with the class, he and Professor Head-Melillo share words briefly in the hallway. Then, she leads the way into class and Acevedo walks toward the podium. His tone is relaxed; his body language as well. He opens up expressing his use of profanity and love for his career emphasizing that he knew since he was a little boy that he wanted to be a police officer. The crowd of 10 young men and women of diverse backgrounds stare at him as he speaks about various tasks and experiences in his two-decade long career.
“Our biggest problem is social media. What we do, say, how we behave, it all gets spun around. Things might not always be the way they appear to be,” said SGT. Acevedo.
Social media outlets such as Facebook allows users to voice their opinion, promote ideas, and post pictures and videos. Today, technology has further advanced, and the site now allows users to create live videos. Acevedo explained that this technique has been used multiple times in altercations as a way in which to show proof of what an officer may or may not be doing. Acevedo goes on to say at times certain parts of clips are shown without the others and things are misconstrued. He also praises the idea of body cameras exclaiming they would only further promote them fulfilling their job requirements to the best of their abilities. “The body cameras are supportive of what we are saying,” said Acevedo.
Social media has its benefits. When considering the hiring process, Acevedo tells the crowd that a bad driving history and media outlets can prevent them from moving forward. It’s important to stop for pedestrians, and to follow rules and regulations found within the drivers manual. He gives an example of a background check. The person has a motor vehicle accident and seven suspensions under their belt. He said although she isn’t currently suspended, that would be a great risk, almost like something is sure to happen. He understands the importance of social media. He says it can be fun and informative, but there is a fine line that cannot be crossed. Acevedo says too many offensive memes, and sense of discrimination or bias, he won’t stand for. He acknowledges the existence of stereotypes saying that the only way to fix the problem is to admit to having a problem.
“I’m Puerto Rican, and they would ask how many people fit in my car, how many people live in my house, or do I have a knife,” said Acevedo.
He leans forward lounging on the podium at some points, during others he comes around to the front and walks across the floor encouraging the room full of criminal justice majors to voice their opinions. He retells the greatness of the job saying there are ups and downs, but it’s the good that constantly reminds him why he chose the path he did. He says despite challenges and having to adjust to the times (the advances of technology), it’s a very fulfilling career.
He concludes his speech noting that there aren’t bad people, just bad choices except for pedophiles. The room was shocked to learn that his best arrest was made right in South Orange and that the man was married.
The class is dismissed, one student stayed around to ask a question or two and then SGT. Acevedo and Professor Head-Melillo gather their things to leave the building. While walking in the hall, they stop a couple of times to recap what was just discussed, specifically discrimination. Professor Head-Melillo says she remembers being discriminated against and she agrees that if not properly approached it can create an unfair bias. She applauds his efforts for change, understanding and equality.
They continue to walk almost coming to an end as the glass doors appear. Before they step out of the building to head towards the steps, Professor Head-Melillo, shares final words and a smile.
Thank you so much. That was great, you are wonderful. I really appreciate it,” said Professor Head-Melillo.