By: Ashleigh S. Wilkerson, December 2, 2018
Clouds bounce across the sky while droplets glide onto the windshield. Wipers of cars on both sides of the street share a similar rhythm. There’s a gracious amount of fog, blurring near and far objects while headlights beam from one vehicle. It’s red, white, black, reads Woodbridge Police, and it’s sitting in the parking lot of the Iselin Volunteer Fire Company.
The doors directly in front of the car lead to a homely like room full of Christmas Decorations, and treats. The smell of donuts and coffee fill the air. There are rows of green and red circular cloth covered tables; each have a dish with candy canes placed in them. Blue, red, and silver ornaments adorn the tree, and flickering rainbow lights outline the perimeter.
Black sofas pose in unison against the left side of the wall. Right above one is a television sending country tunes around the room. There are wood doors, an exit, and entrance to the kitchen. Voices of laughter and conversation escape through the hall. The men come out, dressed in jeans and sweatshirts to prepare the tables as Detective Joelle Slossberg, and the children arrive.
Friday, two mornings prior to today, Detective Slossberg mentions breakfast following a shopping spree at Walmart to help children and families in need of a little extra for the holidays.
“We’ve done something every year. Previous years we would go to houses and bring things. This year we raised enough to give 18 children $375 dollars each ranging from ages two to 10. We also have gift cards for $300 to Shop Rite for two families,” said Slossberg.
Detective Slossberg has been an officer for over 15 years with the Woodbridge Police Department. Before that, she worked at Middlesex County in the office, where she handled accounts and administrative work. She said she would also check inmate’s nails for drugs, and mail for inappropriate letters or nude photographs. She credits that part of the job as her way of gaining hands on experience. Outside of work, she is a full-time mother of two. She says that it’s hard, that she doesn’t have much room for leisure other than naps outside of work, parenting, and sports.
“Both of my Kids want to be Police Officers,” said Slossberg. My daughter wants to be a Cop and a Fire Fighter. My son is extremely smart with math. I would love for him to do finance. I don’t want them to follow in my footsteps, however if they do I will be proud. I just want them to be able to support themselves. That’s all I care about.”
“I lived in Virginia,” said Slossberg. I grew up and went to college in Virginia. When I was younger, I wanted to be a news anchor. I took classes in communication and I really liked science. I took classes in forensics as well. However, I didn’t do so well my first year of college so I came to Jersey and went to County College in Morris.”
Slossberg said she received her associate’s degree and applied to Rutgers. Then a couple months before school began, she was unable to attend classes. Soon after that, someone told her to take the civil service exam.
“I was laughed at and told I was too girly, too small, and sensitive,” says Slossberg. I passed my test with a 98.98 percent. I did better than all of them. They said similar things in regards to the academy. It was July of 2003 when I started. It lasted 28 weeks. I had to cut all of my hair off. In total, there were five women. Three quit, leaving myself and one other girl. I wasn’t going to quit.”
Slossberg said months following what she described as weeks of torture; she received her hiring package in the mail from Woodbridge. She said she worked as a patrol officer for eight and a half years.
“I came back from maternity leave. I took 16 weeks off. The next day I was back on the road,” said Slossberg. I didn’t get much sleep, but I did it until venturing into community policing.”
“One guy did it for three months. Then I got a call saying that it was too much for him and he needed help. When I walked in, he was quitting,” said Slossberg. He said it was awful. We’re not out arresting, my partner Detective Mark Zeno and I are in the schools, dealing with bullies, scams, and ways to prevent incidents from happening. We do events with the Mayor, Senior Citizens, and the Junior Police Academy. We do fun things because we’re trying to change the face of the Police Department.
Slossberg said that people believe what’s on television and that it’s not true. She said that she and the rest of the force go to schools and educate students on everything pertaining to them over a span of eight weeks. They begin by asking students their feelings about police officers and by the end of the course, students are referring to them by first name. She says today, some of the students are young adults and she even considers them when in need of a referral for babysitters.
She continues to explain the various tasks that make up community policing. Slossberg says a show from Nickelodeon inspired the gesture for taking the children shopping and having breakfast. On the show, they would pick up gifts for children. She was thrilled at their progress this year.
“I’ve never had to shoot anyone. I haven’t made many arrests, probably in the 100’s, and tickets, most likely 500. That’s in the span of 15 years. The hardest arrest are those involving kids. It sucks; I’ve made mistakes as well as a kid. Some officers see things as black and white. There is no gray. Sometimes arrests can ruin a kid’s life by giving them a stigma that they’re bad, especially something like stealing,” said Slossberg.
Boys and girls of different shapes, sizes, and colors rejoiced while opening their boxes of munchkins. “I only like glaze,” said one little girl. The man smiled and gave her all glaze.
The laughter that escaped the kitchen is back only much louder. Detective Slossberg, all of the other Officers, the fire fighter’s, Mr. and Mrs. Clause and the children have all joined in.
“I have the ability to feel for others, to feel what they feel. I’m empathetic. I just believe in treating people the way I would want to be treated,” said Slossberg.