September 08, 2009
When New York’s famed Police Academy graduated its winter class
this past December, the student with the highest grade-point
average was also a product of a St. John’s University program that
trains future leaders for America’s largest police department.
Ryan Baer, who earned a 99.75 overall average at the Academy,
received his bachelor’s degree in May 2008 as a member of the NYPD
Cadet Corps at St. John’s Queens campus. “The Corps definitely gave
me an academic and professional edge at the Academy,” said
23-year-old Ryan, who majored in Criminal Justice.
The NYPD Cadet Corps at St. John’s is beginning its fifth full
year preparing students for police leadership through a quality
liberal arts education, a solid grounding in criminal justice
theory and paid internships as uniformed staff in precincts
throughout the city. Since 2005, the highly selective program has
sent 60 St. John’s graduates to the Police Academy.
“From the start, I knew this was a perfect fit for St. John’s,”
James O’Keefe, Ph.D., Associate Dean and Professor of Criminal
Justice and Legal Studies. A former director of the city’s
Police Academy, Dr. O’Keefe administers the Corps and helped bring
it to St. John’s.
This fall, the Corps welcomes 12 new St. John’s freshmen,
bringing the total number of cadets to 45. “The Corps perfectly
blends St. John’s Vincentian mission with public service,” said Dr.
O’Keefe. “St. Vincent de Paul taught us to show leadership by
making the world a better place. The Corps prepares students to
make our city a better place through police work.”
A Meaningful Career
Students accepted as cadets are considered NYPD employees even
before starting the Academy. “When our students graduate from the
Academy, they’re not just starting out as police officers — they’re
being promoted to police officers,” said Dr. O’Keefe. “They have
seniority over other graduates.”
The Corps is actually a “police apprenticeship” combining
college study with full- and part-time paid internships in the
NYPD. Students receive up to $10,000 a year toward college, along
with benefits and varied work assignments. Above all, the program
prepares students for continuing professional advancement as
leaders within the department.
This is an excellent time to consider a career in the NYPD, said
Dr. O’Keefe. Last fall, the department approved a contract ensuring
a 17 percent raise over four years. Beginning January 2009,
starting base salaries will be $40,361 and will rise to $41,975
next August. Holiday pay, uniform allowance and average night
differential brings that amount to $46,228 before overtime.
Also under the new contract, base pay will rise annually to
$76,488 after five and half years on the job. With holiday pay,
uniform allowance, night differential and longevity pay, a police
officer with five and a half years will earn $90,829 before
Hiring remains steady in spite of the economic downturn, Dr.
O’Keefe said. Though the last Academy class was smaller than
previous ones, the NYPD “always needs well-trained, well-educated
police officers. Every large city does.”
Above all, said Dr. O’Keefe, students in the Corps look forward
to a truly meaningful career. “They have a chance to make a
positive difference,” he said. “St. John’s focuses on service, and
service is something police officers do every single day.”
Thinking “Outside the
“The Corps has been a win-win for everyone involved — our
University, our students and our city itself,” said
Keith B. Carrington, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair of
Criminal Justice and Legal Studies at St. John’s. “It furthers St.
John’s mission by giving students the theoretical knowledge and
practical experience to serve as effective, knowledgeable
Recent scholarly research demonstrates the value police gain
from a strong academic background in criminal justice theory, said
Dr. Carrington. Yet St. John’s adds something more, he said — the
person-centered knowledge and skills available through the liberal
“A few years on the streets can make some police officers become
cynical,” said Dr. Carrington. “A broad-based liberal arts
education helps combat that cynicism.”
For Ryan Baer, knowledge and experience gained from Corps was a
huge advantage at the Academy. “A lot of what we studied I’d
already learned at St. John’s,” said Ryan. “I knew how things work
in the Police Department. It helped take away some of that initial
Chris Benson, a 2008 St. John’s graduate, values that knowledge
and experience. But he also acknowledges the benefits of St. John’s
focus on the liberal arts. “We studied philosophy, theology —
subjects you don’t always relate to police work,” said Chris. “But
they really teach you how to think ‘outside the box,’ which comes
in handy when dealing with people.”
The Value of Experience
It was Chris’s lifelong interest in public service —
including his teenage work as an Emergency Medical Technician and
an NYPD Explorer in the Boy Scouts — that led him to the Cadet
Corps at St. John’s. These experiences helped make him a hero even
before entering the NYPD.
As a junior cadet at the Queens campus in 2007, Chris helped
Public Safety officers to apprehend a gunman. “When you see a
situation like that,” he recalled, “everything you’ve learned kicks
into place. You know what’s going on, and what action to take.”
Experience is one of the most exciting parts of being a cadet,
said Chris Santiago, a 21-year-old senior at the Staten Island
campus. As part of his internship, Chris works at Staten Island’s
120th Precinct, inputting domestic violence reports and performing
other administrative duties. “Cadets definitely have an upper hand
at knowing what goes on in a precinct,” he said.
For Mario Belluomo, who graduated from the Staten Island campus
in May 2008, one lesson sums up everything else he learned as an
NYPD Cadet at St. John’s — the opportunity to truly serve the
communities officers will police.
“People get an impression of police writing summonses, making
arrests,” said Mario. “But you can really make a difference in
someone’s life. The purpose of police work is to help people.”
We invite you to learn more about
NYPD Cadet Corps at St. John’s University.