A typical day for twenty-five-year-old Juwann Jones is that there is no typical day. For the past three years, Jones has served the Soundview community in the South Bronx as a New York City Police Officer.
Officer Jones became a police officer at the young age of twenty-two and describes his role as a true labor of love but surprisingly, becoming an officer was not always a part of his game plan.
“I actually didn’t want to be a police officer believe it or not. I wanted to go into video producing or video editing and my mom forced me to take the exam,” Jones recounts.
The civil service law requires that candidates for most New York City jobs such as police officers, take and pass a competitive civil service exam before they can be hired to become permanent employees.
“I was seventeen when my mom suggested it, they were giving the exam every day at the time.”
It can take up to four to five years to even hear back from such an exam, so Jones took his talents to Buffalo State College, where he majored and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Scott Phillips, a criminal justice professor at SUNY Buffalo State, weighs in on what goes into an education in criminal justice. He explains that an education in criminal justice doesn’t limit or train students into becoming one specific thing.
“I don’t teach how to be a cop. That’s the great thing about a critical thinking education. We have a strong program with many different required courses and diverse electives. Further, we focus on critical thinking,” Professor Phillips explains.
“There are usually no simple answers to an issue and students must assess many different issues or concepts to understand a problem. Students are expected to bring evidence to answer a question.”
It was soon after graduating from SUNY Buffalo when Jones received the news that he was approved to attend the New York City police academy to officially undergo the process to becoming a cop.
The New York police academy is a six-month process. The 24-week mandatory timeline entails consistent physical training, education on policy and procedure and prepping to take on the streets of New York City.
After graduating from the academy, Jones now reports to the 43rd precinct where he works on the anti-crime team.
“The thing about this job is there is so much opportunity to back out and decide if this is for you or not,” Jones explains.
“If you don’t love helping people, you’re going to be miserable.”
When asked about a moment that makes it worth it, his mood and demeanor instantly changed to a genuine focus.
He goes on to share a story about a 15-year old teenage boy who was considering taking his life.
“One of the most rewarding things that has ever happened to me was responding to a fifteen-year-old who said he was going to kill himself.”
After conducting an investigation, Officer Jones arrived at the scene right as the teen boy was prepping to jump off a bridge at a local state park.
He took the time to personally speak with the teen. Before departing, Officer Jones handed the teen a piece of paper with his department cell phone number on it.
“I told him to call me if he was ever in need.”
Six months later, Jones received an unlikely call. It was the same teenage boy.
“I ended up meeting up with him off duty and taking him to the boys and girls club where I play basketball. We played some basketball and talked and fast forward to now. He’s a member of the club, is doing super well and about to graduate high school.”
Jones flashes a smile when he shares the details of watching a teens troubled past turn into a success story.
“Not to sound cheesy, but one of the best parts about the job is helping people. It might sound cliché.”
It’s made very clear after Jones shares his genuine love for the job that helping people is truly what fuels his work. When asked about the biggest things he’s learned in his three years thus far he outlines three main tips.
“The first is, if you’re not comfortable with something, don’t do it.”
Not liking how a job went down? Officer Jones recommends speaking up. It is always a team effort. If a job goes bad, it doesn’t matter if your partner was the one who made a poor choice, it could end up poorly reflecting you by association.
“Secondly, whatever you aspire to be on this job, go for it. Don’t let other people’s opinions or goals make you feel like you shouldn’t go for your goals.”
Jones is adamant about not feeling embarrassed for what you aspire to achieve. Not everyone is going to be a cheerleader for your personal goals, but he suggests you not be distracted by any naysayers.
“And lastly, make the job work for you. Policing is usually only something that you’ll do for 20-25 years. I’ll by 47 when I retire which means I’ll have a lot of life left to live. Let the police department give you the tools you need to take your life to the next step.”
Jones is mindful about life after serving his Bronx community. What hobbies or life moves will be made beyond that time period? It is sound advice to keep those future goals in mind.
“Patience.” says Professor Phillips states when asked what advice he’d offer someone who is in the first few years of their criminal justice career.
“Police, for example, have been described as doing “societies dirty work”. There is an ugly side of existence and if you’ve never experienced it, it can really throw you off. A criminal justice worker can’t fix everything, so do your best and move along. You’ll sleep better,” Professor Phillips explains.
When asked about the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the state, Officer Jones does not shy away from the question.
“I’m fortunate enough to be a police officer through this pandemic. In times of crisis and times of chaos, I still have a job. I still can provide for myself. Working through this time, however, means I am not protected by this virus. I am expected to endure hell or high water.”
When asked about something people might not know about police officers, Jones cracks a smile.
“Honestly, most police officers DON’T want to write traffic tickets.”
As many might assume, a career as a first responder wouldn’t necessarily be described as glamorous.
“Many people don’t like me because of the uniform I wear. They hate everything about me, without knowing anything about me.”
Officer Jones’ mature mindset prevents him from taking it to heart.
“At the end of the day, it’s my job to keep people safe and that’s exactly what I intend on doing.”