NYDP Blue: Del Pozo is a beat cop

by Maura Henninger | 10/14/97 5:00am

It seems the great majority of Dartmouth graduates these days pursue one of two postgraduate plans -- graduate school or the corporate world. But recent alumnus Brandon del Pozo '96, one of the more high-profile students at the College of the past few years, works for a more non-traditional employer: the New York Police Department.

In a recent interview with The Dartmouth, del Pozo described his sudden discovery as to what his calling was: "Leading up to graduation, everyone was getting these high-paying jobs. I didn't want a job that wasn't personally fulfilling. Then I had an epiphany -- I wanted to be a cop."

Del Pozo took the test to become a police officer with the New York Police Department just two days after Commencement. After scoring a very high 102 on the test, he worked for the New York District Attorney's office for several months before enrolling in the Police Academy.

After five months in the Academy, he's been on the beat for two months. Del Pozo tells the story about the first time he had to pull his gun. He was writing up a ticket for an accident report when the guy in the car approached his squad car with a gun pointed.

"I jumped out and pulled my gun. We had him taken over in a few minutes. Just two days ago, I was riding the trains and had to pull a gun as well. Any time you feel you're in danger, any time, you must feel comfortable using your gun. But you can't menace people with it," he said.

At the College, del Pozo was a columnist for The Dartmouth and unsuccessful candidate for Student Assembly president. To give one an idea of how involved he was on campus, consider that his name appears in old issues of The Dartmouth more than 100 times -- 45 of them as author of opinion columns.

As a columnist, del Pozo wrote humorous comment articles that addressed serious and controversial issues ranging from the purpose of the Greek system (he was vice president of Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity) to R.O.T.C, which del Pozo participated in and was a vocal supporter of. His columns sparked controversy from time to time and usually a letter or two to the editor.

In addition, del Pozo was a key player in the Student Assembly and lost a bid for the presidency in 1995. Having joined the Assembly during his sophomore summer, he went on to become the vice president for Communications and later the Academic Life vice president.

The Assembly he served for was fraught with in-fighting, especially during his junior year when the president resigned and the Assembly underwent a lot of scrutiny from the student body as well as administration.

After his senior fall, del Pozo took a step down from his leadership position in the Assembly to do other things, such as work for The Beacon, a conservative, College-recognized newspaper, which, some say, was at its height during his editorship.

Del Pozo's decision to become a police officer may have been inspired by his family's history in the military. His grandfather was a paratrooper in World War II and his father was a medic in the Vietnam War, according to an article about R.O.T.C. in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine in which del Pozo was featured.

"At Dartmouth I became very interested in policy-related issues, but I decided that while I'm young and in shape, I want to see the issues first-hand," he said.

To prepare for the life as a New York cop, del Pozo went through five months of training. Because of his R.O.T.C background and diploma from the College, he was put in charge of a group of 30 other recruits.

"They pick a leader who has some sort of military experience who acts as a liaison and counselor. I think was picked, in large part, because of my Dartmouth diploma," said del Pozo.

Daily training at the Police Academy included physical training, 10 days of firearms training, several days of basics and tactics training, and a few days dedicated to learning how to drive a police car at high speeds.

"We had three days of learning how to throw a Chevrolet Caprice around. It's so hard, you wouldn't believe it -- those things are like boats," said del Pozo.

But del Pozo spent about 75 percent of the time studying, and "we couldn't cut class," said del Pozo. Recruits are required to take classes about topics such as social science, how to wage an effective argument, and police science, "the most boring thing you could ever take."

"We had to take law, as well. I had a big leg-up on that from classes I took at Dartmouth. But when I started to talk about conceptual ideas of law, everyonejust told me to shut up. They're all about the bare bones of law," said del Pozo.

On April 16th, del Pozo and his class were sworn into the New York Police Department by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. After the ceremony, del Pozo said, the new officers were treated to none other than 2000 donuts.

"I started joking to this guy next to me, 'Don't you think this is a little weird?' He says, 'If you don't like donuts, there's cruellers, too.' The irony was utterly lost on him," said del Pozo.

Eric del Pozo '99, del Pozo's younger brother, fully supports his brother's decision to become a policeman.

"I never thought of him as a policeman with all the political stuff he did. But it should give him some good stories if he ever follows through with being a writer, as he's said he might do," Eric said.

The del Pozo parents are viewed their sons' decision with a little more skepticism, according to del Pozo.

"My mom is a very protective Jewish mother, still wanting me home in by 8 p.m. for dinner. My father's reaction was, 'I sent you to Dartmouth for this?' But he wears his NYPD sweatshirt now right along with his Dartmouth sweatshirt," said del Pozo.

As he's done for the past two months, del Pozo spends his days walking his beat in the South Bronx, which he describes as a "busy precinct." Next month he'll be working in Brooklyn South, "just like the T.V. show."

On a typical day, del Pozo reports for duty at 5 p.m. After half an hour of waiting around, all the officers are briefed on precinct conditions.

"They tell us what to look out for, be it bikes on the sidewalk or a push-in robbery."

Once at his post, del Pozo will walk the beat with his radio and report what he sees. Also over the radio, he'll be called to jobs which involve crimes in progress or that have just occurred.

"Jobs can range from everything from a kid being hit by a car to cops chasing some guy with a gun down the street that I'm on."

Does the job instill any fear in del Pozo?

"Fear isn't a daily constant. It's a moment-to-moment sort of thing. Most of the time you're just talking to your partner about which pizza joint you're going to eat at. Two percent of the time it's just scary. But then you realize that you've been trained and are protected. In 30 seconds, 20 cops can be there to back you up," said del Pozo.

For del Pozo, this may or may not be a life-long career. He's contemplating doing this for two or three years and then going to government school at Harvard.

"But there's so many different ways you can go with the police, from the SWAT team to public relations to being the boss of a precinct. I haven't made any definite decisions yet," del Pozo said.

Eric del Pozo thinks his older brother will stick it out for a few years until the novelty wears off.

"It's like the kid in the candy store effect. When he first became a cop, he was showing me how to disarm an armed felon and encouraging me to practice it. He's got the whole 'Charlie's Angels' thing going for now," said the younger del Pozo.

For now, the rewards of being a policeman are enough to keep del Pozo going. While the pay isn't fantastic or enough to raise a family on, he gets satisfaction out of doing something he's truly interested in.

In addition to serving for the NYPD, del Pozo is a first lieutenant in the military stationed, inactively, in the reserves in White River Junction.

"When I have an interest in, say, the military, I just jump into it. I have a syndrome for jumping into my interests," said del Pozo.

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