The Policing Power of Three: NYS Trooper draws from Mansfield, Bloomsburg and Lock Haven


By Andrea O'Neill '06

The partnership between Commonwealth University and the New York State Police began as a simple matter of geography. But a solid Criminal Justice program, interested students, and a welcoming air in three locations kept Trooper Rich Cunningham returning to recruit Mounties, Huskies, and Bald Eagles.

Cunningham's Troop E barracks in the southern tier of New York State put him near CU-Mansfield. From there, he was able to extend his range and meet prospective officers at the Bloomsburg and Lock Haven locations – all of which boast a robust Criminal Justice program which, in Cunningham’s experience, tends to allow a successful candidacy as a police officer.

"I know a lot of New York troopers that went to at least one of the three locations," said Cunningham. "Mansfield is close to us, so we started recruiting there."

Trooper Cunningham says that while recruiting for police work can be difficult, the professors and staff of three CU locations and the students he met on each campus made his job easier.

"I've been to a lot of colleges, and I felt the most welcome at the three Commonwealth locations," said Cunningham. "It's nice that [Commonwealth] has a big Criminal Justice platform. [Students] already know they want to work in law enforcement. The more questions they have, the easier it is for me."  

One of the reasons that recruiting has become difficult over the years is the changing public attitudes toward police officers, as has the demographics of the population they serve. 

Trooper Rich Cunningham is seated at a table and speaking to three female students who are standing across from him.

Cunningham explains that police are busier now and come in contact with a more diverse group of individuals that require different responses and adjustments. His more than two decades of experience allows him to talk honestly to students – whether or not they are interested in becoming a state trooper.

"Today, a percentage of the population doesn't trust the police," explained Cunningham. "You come in contact with many different types of people [and] students tell me they don't want to get shot at."  

Still, according to Cunningham, the right person can make an indelible mark on their community if they are fair, patient, and adaptable. And even though Pennsylvania has removed the degree requirement from their screening process, Cunningham thinks the needs of the job still requires a college degree – whether or not that degree is in Criminal Justice.

"If they're going to college for criminal justice, their heart is in it, and that is most important," explained Cunningham. "Spending two to four years gaining a degree makes you more mature. This job isn't for everybody, but we want the people who desire to impact their community."

Despite how the job has changed and the degree requirement to get there, Cunningham stresses that the job is good, especially for those who feel the call to serve.

"The fact that I didn't retire when I could have is a testament to how good the job is," explained Cunningham. "The job is tough, but it's fulfilling. You'll be a good officer if your heart is in it."

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