At work


At Work

Police officer Jeff Trudel

At Work is an occasional column about neighbors and what they do to earn their livings. It doesn’t matter what the job is, whether it’s a big job or a small one, has a title or doesn’t. We’re interested in what you do every day, and what you think about it. If you think your line of work is interesting, or you have a suggestion of someone whose working life will fit At Work, please contact Nelson Sigelman, the managing editor.

A recent Friday night on patrol looked to be slower than normal to Oak Bluffs police officer Jeff Trudel. At 9 pm pedestrian and vehicle traffic was light on chilly streets glistening from intermittent rain. ” But you never know,” he said.

And three hours later, the psychologist-turned-police officer had searched Barnes Road for an alleged drunk driver heading Up-Island, helped a guest locked out of his hotel, stopped a vehicle running without lights and assisted in a bizarre scenario that included: an operator with legal issues, a large angry dog and, remarkably, a human passenger in the trunk. “Said he was listening to the stereo,” Trudel said without elaborating.

Trudel, 34, a Chelmsford native and the son of a police officer, is married to fifth-generation Islander Sarah (Mello) Trudel, director of education for The Trustees of Reservations. They met at Plymouth State College in New Hampshire and have a seven-year-old son named Taylor.

His master’s degree in psychology came in handy that night when a range of unexpected situations tumbled, one after another, onto his watch. In conversation, he is intent, focused and polite and pays attention to his job. His work has earned him recognition from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

MVT: Tell us something about your job.

A: “I learned pretty quickly that communication is an important part of this job. I’ve done a lot of critical intervention work with teenagers as a counselor. There is definitely a big crossover between police work and social work. A lot of social work is involved in this job. This is not big-city police work. This is a community we live in.”

MVT: How did you get started in this line of work?

A: “After college, I spent several years in social work and counseling in Atlanta where Sarah was working at Zoo Atlanta. I got a master’s in psychology at Georgia State while we were there. When we moved back, I was director of counseling and advising at the Tilton School in New Hampshire, then we moved to the Island and I spent a summer working at the jail in Edgartown. Then I went to the (police) academy, got a foot in door as a special police officer in Oak Bluffs, and after three years as a special officer, I was hired three years ago as a full-time officer.”

MVT: What’s the best part of your job?

A: “For me I think it’s the variety, having things thrown into my lap and adapting to them. I like working nights. The surprise of the job is interesting to me. This is a small town department with real good chemistry and camaraderie and offers lots of flexibility in that you get to do a lot of different things. I spent a few years coaching and counseling and swore I’d never sit at a desk wearing a suit and a tie.”

MVT: What’s the toughest part of your job?

A: “I guess it’s the stereotype we encounter. A lot of people don’t understand who we are and what we do, and unfortunately, we often meet them on the worst day of their life. Sometimes they think we’re targeting them. We’re not. But that’s part of the job. It is what it is.”

MVT: What would you rather be doing when you think you would rather be doing something else?

A: “Hmm. Good question. Probably a professional hunter (laughs). I love hunting, the outdoors. I guess if I weren’t a police officer, I’d probably get back into education, counseling and maybe coaching football and wrestling. I enjoy working with kids.”