New officer hopes to be good face for UPD


Submitted Photo

Joel Stewart, the new university police officer, is sworn in by Lynette Drake, the interim vice president for student affairs earlier this month.

Chrissy Miller, Staff Reporter

Though he has lived in Charleston his whole life, new university police officer Joel Stewart said he was never really around Eastern’s campus growing up.

That changed when he got the position and started training about two weeks ago.

“(This job) opens my eyes to all the different things going on. It’s a different world. I never did go to college,” Stewart said. “It makes me think about going back to school and taking some classes. I don’t know exactly what route I would take; I just know there are plenty of options out there.”

When Stewart turned 30, he decided he wanted to do something with his life that would help make a difference. Stewart said this “aha” moment gave him the perfect chance to take a step in the direction he wanted to go.

“I just felt a higher calling for myself from doing what I was beforehand,” Stewart said. “I just wanted to be able to help people out and thought I’d be suited for this.”

Stewart is no stranger to public service.

Before he became an officer, Stewart worked in Charleston’s street department for two years before starting a job in the parks and facilities department that lasted five years.

However, Stewart said being a police officer is new to him.

Though he said it has been a challenge to learn everything, he likes being able to hear a little bit of everything going on around campus and the Charleston community.

Stewart said he hopes to be a good face for the University Police Department by being a “friendly face in uniform.”

“Things can get nasty at times, but you have to treat people with the utmost respect,” Stewart said. “I’m out there to try to help and try to be a sense of positivity.”

Stewart said his family gives him a lot of inspiration. He said having the roles of husband and father makes him want to do the best job he possibly can.

Stewart married at 19 and has three children: two girls and one boy.

He said having this job helps him to teach his kids it is never too late to go after something they want to pursue.

“That’s definitely what I’m doing (at the UPD),” Stewart said. “If you feel like you want to do something, don’t be afraid to try it.”

UPD Chief Kent Martin said Stewart has been assigned to train with a field-training officer Stephen Szigethy for up to 12 weeks. During this time, he will work to familiarize himself with department policies and internal procedures, such as timecards.

“It’s been a lot to think about,” Stewart said.

The 12-week training period teaches the practical application for what Stewart learned about at the police academy.

After he completes training, Martin said Stewart will be on his own.

“He’ll be able to work without being under the direct supervision of another officer,” Martin said.

Martin said Stewart’s performance so far on the job has been great.

“Joel is smart. He’s very even-tempered, and he relates well to people,” Martin said. “He’s a good communicator and a good listener. So he’s going to be a very good fit.”

Stewart will be assigned to the patrol division upon completion of his training, Martin said.

“He’ll be one of them that you see out on campus in a uniform in a car, on a bike or on foot,” Martin said. “He’ll be out in the residence halls and in the buildings. When someone calls and needs police assistance, he’ll be one of them that shows up. He’ll be on the front lines.”


Chrissy Miller can be reached at 581- 2812 or [email protected].