Working as a law enforcement officer in an urban setting isn’t easy. As a patrol operations supervisor on the graveyard shift at the University of Pennsylvania, Joseph Marano employs the “help first, enforce later” philosophy to achieve successful outcomes.
“Higher education policing is vastly different than your standard municipal job,” he explains. “The emphasis here is on helping your community because that approach can have a greater impact. We’re guardians, but we’re also teachers.”
A 2011 graduate of Neumann’s criminal justice program, Marano was promoted to sergeant in Penn’s Division of Public Safety in 2021. He supervises 18 patrol officers, who cover a large swath of territory in Philadelphia – from 30th to 43rd Street and from Market Street to the Schuylkill River – from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
The university and the city have an agreement that, within this area, working hand in hand with the Philadelphia Police 16th and 18th districts, Penn officers will provide the primary response to incidents and calls. “This memorandum of understanding alleviates the load on Philadelphia police,” says Marano, “so that they can focus on more violent issues going on to the west and north.”
Penn’s patrol officers respond to a variety of calls. According to Marano, property crimes (burglary, theft) and health issues (with two major hospitals in the area) are the most frequent calls during the traditional academic year. “We occasionally see an uptick in some violent crimes, such as recent car jackings, but the campus is safe overall,” he says.
During finals, officers also deal with student mental health issues. “We can get them the help they need through counseling and professional services on campus.”
Summer is the off season, but some issues remain year-round. “We have a pretty consistent homeless population, and all of the officers know them on a first-name basis,” explains Marano. “We know their stories. When a call comes in, we’ll know who it is right away. It’s amazing how much you can defuse, buying someone a soda and a bag of chips.”
He advises his officers to “listen actively, take yourself out of the picture, and avoid becoming defensive.”
Marano likes the leadership aspect of his career. “We have the ability to have an impact on someone’s life. Every interaction is a chance to really bring your personality into solving a problem and a reminder that you are a servant of the community.”
He recalls that Neumann taught him how to think critically and completely (approach a situation and find a solution outside the box). “Neumann definitely prepared me and made me better as a person and as a police officer.”
Marano still returns to campus twice each year. In the fall, he speaks with freshmen criminal justice majors, and in the spring, he comes back to recruit seniors.