Criminal justice majors at Iona College gained invaluable insight and hands-on experience from top police instructors this semester thanks to a unique partnership developed with the New Rochelle Police Department through Iona’s Criminal Justice & Sociology Department.
Delving deep into training on police de-escalation tactics, domestic violence investigations, citizen encounters and much more, officers worked closely with 10 Iona College seniors at police headquarters over the course of five weeks. Instructors were so impressed, they even invited students to join patrols and participate in an active shooter drill staged at a local school.
Iona President Seamus Carey, Ph.D., offered his gratitude to Police Commissioner Joseph F. Schaller, Esq., ’99MS, as well as to all the officers and faculty, saying these are the kinds of experiences that not only help students “Learn Outside the Lines” of the classroom; they also benefit the communities students are being trained to serve.
“Iona has a proud tradition of graduating students into law enforcement, where they serve our communities with courage and distinction. Given the unprecedented challenges officers face every day, the training we provide to aspiring members of law enforcement has never been more important,” Carey said. “I am incredibly grateful for the courtesy and professionalism of the New Rochelle Police Department, as well as the dedication of our faculty and students.”
For criminal justice major Billy Falla ’21, the opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. “No one was doing internships this year because of COVID,” he said. “So, when the opportunity to do this came up, I said, ‘Boss, put me in!’”
Since the inception of the Criminal Justice Department, it has been a requirement for students to do an internship prior to graduation. This year, however, internships were nearly impossible to come by due to the pandemic. That’s when professors Paul O’Connell and Kimberly Spanjol worked to introduce this opportunity with the NRPD.
“Currently, there is a nationwide movement underway to enhance police ‘legitimacy’ in the eyes of the public and to engage the community in the ‘co-production of public safety.’ These efforts are based upon open and honest dialogue between the police and all segments of the community. That is exactly what occurred here,” said O’Connell, a former officer with the New York Police Department. “During these sessions, there was an authentic meeting of the minds to discuss the realities and the many challenges of American policing. I am very proud of our students and extremely appreciative of all the efforts of these officers. These efforts represent tangible solutions to many of the challenges faced today.”
Falla, 41, an Army veteran, just completed his degree at Iona after nearly 15 years in the military. He began his service in the Middle East after 9/11 and traveled the world doing multiple tours both overseas and in the United States before returning home to New Rochelle to raise a family. He is pursuing a job opportunity with a high-end security firm and eventually would like to continue his education and get a law degree.
“I see a police officer’s job as the most honorable job you can have in the community. You put your life in danger every day,” Falla said. “It’s one thing to learn about it in a lecture; another thing is what you actually get in the field. This gave students a close glimpse of what it’s really like. But then again, I know it’s just a bit of what a police officer has to face every day.”