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NJ State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan shares career insights with Centenary University criminal justice majors

Course called Careers in Criminal Justice brings local, state, and national law enforcement professionals to campus, encouraging students to explore job opportunities in the field.

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) — “It’s the most noble profession on the face of the earth.” That’s how New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan described his career and that of the nearly 3,200 enlisted law enforcement officers—as well as the department’s 1,450 civilian members—who work as New Jersey state troopers on a recent visit to address criminal justice majors at Centenary University.

The students are enrolled in a course called Careers in Criminal Justice taught by Douglas Compton, Ed.D., assistant professor of criminal justice. The course is part of Centenary’s Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, which is taught by faculty members who have also worked in law enforcement for many years. The University also offers a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership.

(Photo: NJ State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan. Credit | Centenary University)
(Photo: NJ State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan. Credit | Centenary University)

Each spring, Dr. Compton invites a cadre of criminal justice professionals to campus to encourage students to explore job opportunities in a range of professions, as well as issues facing law enforcement today. Other speakers this semester represented the Morris Plains and Mount Olive police departments, Morris County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New Jersey Department of Corrections, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, New Jersey Parole Board, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, SA Railroad Police, and Readington Police Department K-9 Unit.

A retired police officer, Dr. Compton started teaching the course four years ago. He was determined that his students would learn from the best: “Col. Callahan and I had never met, but I sent him an email inviting him to speak to the class. Within six minutes my phone rang and Col. Callahan was on the other end asking how he could help. Since then, he has visited Centenary every year, giving our students a chance to learn what it’s like to be a New Jersey state trooper from a true professional.”

While many parts of the job are exciting—planning security for major events like the 2014 Super Bowl and the upcoming FIFA World Cup in 2026, for instance—others are stressful. Col. Callahan noted that the New Jersey State Police partner with the FBI on terrorist attacks and conduct crime scene investigations for serious accidents and murders.

Recounting the senseless shooting of 9-year-old Sequoya Bacon-Jones as she played at a Trenton playground last year, Col. Callahan told the students, “As difficult as it is, I share this story to refocus all of us on the reason we do this job. People say that Sequoya was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wrong—it was a beautiful Friday night and she was exactly where she was supposed to be. I do this job to get those offenders, those weapons, off the street, so a beautiful 9-year-old doesn’t have to die.”

Noting that he still keeps in touch with Sequoya’s mother, Col. Callahan added that compassion is a vital on-the-job skill for troopers, “If you can handle yourself and think clearly in times of stress, you’ll carry that skill out into the real world. The challenge is to have compassion. As troopers, we need to be the voice for the voiceless. It’s not all about speeding tickets or locking people up for cocaine or guns. You can lock somebody up who has a kilo or a gun—but you’d better treat them with dignity, with compassion, and according to the Constitution. So, when you’re contemplating becoming a trooper, you have to want to be a community caretaker.”

Following his previous visits to the University, Col. Callahan hosted a group of Centenary students at his office to explore careers with the New Jersey State Police. As a result, several University alumni followed through by taking the state police exam.

“It is challenging,” Col. Callahan said of attending the New Jersey State Police Academy in Sea Girt. “You have to be mentally prepared. There’s a mentality of tearing you down to build you back up. Yet, the places this job can take you are pretty special. This is the most noble profession on the face of  the Earth and I’m proud to do it.”

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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