El Vaquero Staff Writer Goes on Ride-Along

The story you are about to read is true and the names have NOT been changed to protect the innocent. His name is Neil Carthew, 26, a criminal justice major. He’s a cadet at the college. This is the city: Glendale, Calif. It was a sunny Thursday, May 29, when this El Vaquero writer joined him in a ride-along. This is how our day went:

– Story and Photos by
El Vaquero Staff Writer –

8 a.m. – I groggily meet Cadet Senior Cpl. Neil Carthew. He’s been here since 6:50 a.m., before the start of his 7 a.m. shift, to have a briefing to talk about events and prior incidents, check his mail, get a radio, check his e-mail and look at the “hot” boards – crime incident boards.

A typical day for a cadet “always varies, but there’s always the basics, which is basically community policing, helping people out with assistance, directions,” said Carthew.

“Report writing is 70 percent of what you’re going to be doing in law enforcement. I hope you weren’t expecting this to be like “cops”, chasing down people and stuff,” he said with a laugh.

8:10 a.m. – Vehicular patrol of the campus parking lots and perimeter. “There’s a lot of parking disputes. There are fights, those happen quite often too,” Carthew said. “The whole big thing is de-escalating the situation. we try to de-escalate the situation by No.1, staying calm. You don’t want to try and out-yell the person.”

This morning, a squirrel attacking a candy wrapper is the most action seen in the lots. “The worst is weekend nights in Lot B. You always find people in their cars and – we’ll let you use your imagination,” he said.

8:30 a.m. – Search secluded spots. “There’s places on this campus you would never think existed.” said Carthew, on foot now. “We like to search the more hidden parts of campus. You find people doing things. In the past we had a transient living on campus.”

No transients in sight, but a group of men by the aviation building fall silent as Carthew in uniform strides by. “There’s always people that naturally don’t like us, and that’s OK.let’s face it, a lot of people don’t like law enforcement…So what’s worse than a police officer is someone who WANTS to be a police officer.

“If you’re one of those people that all you care about is making sure everybody likes you, you should probably become a fireman. Everybody loves firemen,” he says, laughing.

9 a.m. – Still walking. Down the hill, then past the track, with a hike up a small weedy slope, and a loop by the fitness center. Then back up again to the police station

To my surprise, Carthew said that cadets do not have to pass a fitness test. However, applicants must pass a written test, and if hired, go through a six month training and probation period. Police specialist Nidal Kobaissi, who is in charge of the cadet program said, “Our cadets are very unique in that they receive more training than any other cadet program in the state.”

But they are still students. Each cadet must be enrolled in at least six units, maintain a 2.0 GPA and still work 29 hours a week, but “school comes first,” said Carthew. “We always work around class.”

9:30 a.m. – Arrive at ACTC and talk to two cadets there, Varaz Gharakian, 21, business administration major, and George Ortiz, 21, undecided but leaning toward a real estate license. Ortiz said, “We interact with the police officers a lot so that’s why I chose it. Even though it pays less, I prefer the experience, rather than getting paid more as a security guard.”

Starting cadets earn $8 an hour, a wage that increases as they move up the cadet ladder, from police cadet to senior corporal cadet.

Cadets are in charge of many of the aspects of their program, including doing their own payroll, vehicular maintenance and background checks, said Carthew. “If you want it, if you want to work hard, if you want to make sure that we stay self-managing, then you do it all on your own,” he said. “Managing the cadet program by cadets keeps us professional as well.”

A walk around the ACTC campus turns up nothing more than chatting students, chirping birds and more attacks on trash by squirrels.

10:04 a.m. – Patrol the parking lots in the cadet truck, “Car 52.”
“[Cadets] sometimes get a bad rap about citation writing,” said Carthew. “Some people think cadets are a little too aggressive on that, but in reality, many times they just give people warnings or advise people where to park in the future.”

“Some people think that’s all we care about, writing citations. That’s one of the misconceptions we get. We do as much warning people than actually breaking out the citation and writing it. We’re not trying to be citation happy.”

10:05 a.m. – He writes a citation. No, just kidding.

10:15 a.m. – Check fire hazard road, another isolated, secluded place. Carthew said, “People come back here for a class, or .something else, who knows.” Hmm. That seems to happen a lot around here.

10:40 a.m. – Campus Foot Patrol. Again. Carthew said the campus trouble spots are the plaza, the parking lots and the information desk. “You have some kind of problem, you need help with something, well the first place you go is the information desk to find out what you can do to resolve this problem. So sometimes people are upset, and people at the info desk get the brunt [of their anger].”

10:50 a.m. – At the Health Center. Cadets also respond to medical injuries and have a close working relationship with the health center, said Carthew.

Carmita Veliz, a nurse at the Health center, had nothing but praise for the cadets. “I couldn’t do my job without campus police or the cadets,” she said. “They become my hands and legs in a way, my extra hands and legs during times when I have to focus my hands and legs on somebody.”

11:15 a.m. – Time for Code 7, aka. “Lunch Break.” I spend the time in the Dispatch room with dispatcher Blanca Razanna, 21, sociology major with a concentration in criminal justice.

“It’s very professional [working with the cadets],” said Razanna. It sounds maybe funny or fake, but everybody gets along. It’s a small department.”

Indeed, Carthew said the cadet program is understaffed with 19 cadets. “We get very few applicants. The few applicants we get, we have to make sure they pass the tests,” he said..

Out of 10 applicants, maybe five will pass. “If I was to apply now as a cadet, I think it would be pretty difficult, but it’s not impossible. We definitely want to help people out. We’re not here to try and be elite, we want to give people a chance.”

12:05 p.m. – Scoping out the Plaza. “Anytime you have a lot of people gathering, who knows what could happen,” said Carthew. “On a college campus, things can get out of control pretty quick.”

However, few people are in the plaza, and things seem peaceful on the green grass. “You have down times, definitely. But the times we do have excitement makes up for it,” said Carthew. “Things always happen in threes, that’s one thing I’ve noticed.two weeks of no incidents and then one day, there’s a barrage of calls, one after the other.”

When there are fights, what are they about? “Women,” he said, without skipping a beat. “And sometimes women are involved in the fighting. He explained that when you have two strong personalities, sometimes the cause of fights is something as small as a look.

But today there’s no angry posturing on the plaza. Not even from squirrels. “Sorry it’s not so exciting,” he said. “This is pretty much a typical day. Most of the time it’s quiet, and every now and then, all hell breaks loose.”

12:53 p.m. – Say goodbye to Cadet Carthew but run into peace officer Samir Abou-Rass, one of six Glendale police department officers stationed here and former GCC student, student body president and cadet. “The guys that are working here are very mature, and I have absolutely no problems working with any of them,” he said. “If we ever get into a situation where there’s danger involved, I trust them 100 percent to go through with the job. As far as safety goes, they contribute a lot. Tremendously. They are the eyes and ears of the police officers, and we depend a lot upon them. Cadets here pretty much do almost police work.I think it’s more advan-”

12:56 p.m. – Radio crackles to life with “college police, report of possible fight by administration building, by the bridge,” and Abou-Rass is off without finishing his sentence.He runs to the scene and I follow at a somewhat slower pace to Lot 32. It’s a parking lot dispute, of course. Police officers and four cadets, including Carthew, are already there. They fan out and separate the possible fighters and begin the “de-escalation.”

1 p.m. – Carthew is still in the parking lot. It’s the end of his shift, but he’s still trying to help resolve the situation. I leave, but he’s right where he wants to be.