Internship Brings ‘Full Circle’ Moment

Connor MuldoonStudent Connor Muldoon watched the opening arguments in the trial of George Floyd’s convicted killer, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, on a television in the Syracuse Police Department. 

His viewing companions—three police officers.

A year earlier, in the days following Floyd’s death, Muldoon joined a memorial gathering in his suburban New Jersey hometown. “I consider myself a strong ally to the Black Lives Matter movement,” says Muldoon, a junior majoring in policy studies at the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences and public relations at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “A year ago, I never would have thought of watching the trial with police officers. It was a full circle moment for me.” 

It was a moment provided by an educational opportunity; Muldoon was hired to intern in the police department in the spring semester. The opportunity was made possible by a gift from Syracuse University alumnus and Maxwell Advisory Board member David Kelso ’68.

Kelso hoped not only to provide experiential learning, but also broaden the perspectives of both students and police. “It is important to engage students with the Syracuse community,” says Kelso, who grew up on the city’s southside and attended the University with the help of a scholarship. Now the retired vice chairman for private banking at J.P. Morgan Chase, he has been generous in his support of Maxwell.

David KelsoMuldoon felt the internship would fit with his degree programs and offer a unique perspective of police in a time when the vocation is under intense scrutiny. “I thought it would give me a frame of reference so I could speak better on the issues,” he says. “To go into the police department and be able to have these conversations with the officers has been a really positive experience for me, and I think the officers feel the same way.”

Syracuse officers, for instance, spoke with Muldoon as they watched the opening statements in the Chauvin trial. “We discussed the different ways that they are trained to deal with these situations,” says Muldoon, “and the officers shared with me how Chauvin’s actions were not aligned with that training.” 

Sgt. Matthew Malinowski, the department’s public information officer, immersed Muldoon and a second student intern in his work. “It is the gravity of the messaging that I wanted them to understand and how that affects public perception. It is also the image of law enforcement, from the positive interactions and the human side of our officers, to the times when they need to be authoritative.”

Malinowski adds, “Having this extra help has been tremendous,” enabling the department to triple the number of press releases, photographs, social media posts and other content to inform and engage the public.

The internship has also broken down some officers’ notions about university students, who Malinowski admits have sometimes been regarded as disconnected from the city. “The officers appreciated and respected their work and came to trust them, almost as one of their own,” he says.

Malinowski is grateful to the students and Kelso.

“I don’t even know if he truly understands the impact he has had by creating these internships,” Malinowski says. “These students have been invaluable in helping us   as a police department better engage with the community.”

— Jessica Youngman with reporting by Christine Weber

06/14/21