George Mason University Police Officers Jorge Feliciano and Emily Ross review some paperwork on top of a patrol car Sunday, Sept. 12 on an adjacent road to campus. Photo By Antonieta Rico.

George Mason University Police Officers Jorge Feliciano and Emily Ross review some paperwork on top of a patrol car Sunday, Sept. 12 on an adjacent road to campus. Photo By Antonieta Rico.

It’s almost 11 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, and the night reveals a small form on the floor, crouched against a wall behind Student Union Building II.

“Are you OK?” asks George Mason University Police Officer Jorge Feliciano.

Officer for a night

Officer Jorge Feliciano pats down a Fairfax, Va., man who was arrested for use of false identification to avoid prosecution and driving a car without a driver’s license Sunday, Sept. 12 on a road near campus.


Officer Emily Ross gives a field sobriety test to a young woman Sunday, Sept. 12 on Roberts Road. The young woman was pulled over after she ran a stop sign on campus. The results of a breathalyzer showed that she had a blood alcohol content of .09, which is just over the legal limit, Ross said.


Officer Emily Ross checks the information on a driver license after she pulled over a young woman who had run a stop sign on campus Sunday, Sept. 12.


Officer Emily Ross talks with a young woman she pulled over after she saw her run a stop sign on campus Sunday, Sept. 12. The young woman had a blood alcohol content of .09, just over the legal limit, Ross said.

All photos by Antonieta Pico.

A soft voice replies “My arms hurt … ”

Minutes before, Feliciano responded to a report of a young couple having an argument by SUB II. The caller said a young woman had fallen to the ground. A young man fitting the description given by the caller said that the woman had become emotional and run off.

After speaking with Feliciano, the woman agrees to come out from behind the building. She says that she is fine, that she just needed to be alone. She says her arms hurt when she becomes emotional and denies that she fell, but Feliciano can see smudge marks on her legs. Feliciano said one of the hardest things about being a police officer for him is seeing any type of abuse.

However, as a member of the Mason Police Department, the majority of the calls Feliciano responds to are thefts, auto accidents and alcohol-related calls, he said.

For the Mason police officers, the university setting comes with unique challenges.

Police Officer Emily Ross is slowly losing patience. It’s after 2 a.m. on Sunday and she is sitting in her patrol car waiting on a sober ride for the young woman she pulled over. Ross saw the woman, who said she was a student at Mason, blow through a stop sign on campus. When she pulled her over, a breathalyzer revealed she had a .09 blood alcohol content, which is just over the legal limit.

The young woman is crying. Ross wants her off the streets. Ross decides to write her a ticket for the stop sign and let her call two sober drivers to pick her up. The young woman says she will call her parents.

“I’m hoping this will have a more positive affect on her,” Ross said. As officers at the university, police have the option to use their own discretion in handling some of the cases they come across. Besides strict enforcement, police can also choose to send them to classes, warn them or refer them to the Dean of Students.

Almost 30 minutes later the parents have not shown up. When someone finally drives up, it is two of the woman’s friends. Fed up, Ross tells them to “Just go!” From her patrol car, Ross watches in disbelief as the two sober drivers pull out on the road and proceed to drive away, into the oncoming traffic lane.

Ross’s patrol car lights go back on.

“People will assume the worst of you,” said Ross. “They’ll love a firefighter before they love a cop.” But Ross said that she can make a difference with college students. She turned down a career opportunity to work at the Alexandria Police Department in order to stay at Mason. “I didn’t want to give up the community,” Ross said, “These kids have more of a chance.”

Feliciano said some students assume police are just trying to ruin their college experience, but really, it’s the well-being of the students that the police have in mind. Feliciano has recently been on the lookout for fraternities that shuttle underage freshmen off campus to drink then drop them back to the university. He said that he has found drunk freshmen wandering about campus, and some have even ended up in the emergency room.

“We are there just to make sure they are safe,” Feliciano said.

Whereas some universities employ security guards to maintain campus security, Mason uses a state-certified and nationally-accredited patrol force.

Mason police is a “fully fledged, full service police department,” said George Ginovsky, assistant chief of police. The force is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and is authorized up to 57 police officers.
Police are required to go through a state certified police academy, Ginovsky said.

The campus police have full arrest powers at all Mason campuses and also carry firearms. Ginovsky said their jurisdiction extends to the campus and adjacent roads, but in emergencies, police can also make arrests outside of those boundaries.
The department also runs a police cadet program.

“Police cadets are paid, and I emphasize paid, employees of the police department who are not armed and don’t have arrest powers,” said Ginovsky. “[They] perform various security tasks on campus.”

Ginovsky said they are almost always hiring cadets, and he encourages students interested in a law enforcement career to apply.
A good relationship with students is “vital,” Ginovsky said. To that end he welcomes any student who would like to learn more about campus police to do a ride-along with the police. A request form for a ride-along is available at the Police and Safety Building in front of the Rappahannock River Deck.

Feliciano and Ross also said they think that building a good rapport with students is important. Feliciano said he welcomes students to ask him questions or talk to him.

“Stop by,” Feliciano said. “We are there for them.”