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First-hand accounts enhance learning for MHS Law Class students

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Malden Police Lt. Powell, Sgt. O’Brien provide informative presentation for MHS students

  There is an entire, vast segment of the television and film industry that is devoted to re-creating stories and accounts from public safety and law enforcement.

    But there are few cases or investigations that are addressed, looked into and solved in one or two hours on the small or big screen — as they are on a nightly basis, on police shows or movies.

    What is not squeezed into those accounts are the real-life details — the “nitty gritty” of police life — on the job.

     A group of Malden High School 11th and 12th graders got a true helping of authentic, real-life information on policing and public safety from a community service lens recently when a Malden Police Department Lieutenant and Sergeant delivered a compelling presentation.

   MHS social studies educator Richard Tivnan hosted the MPD officers during his Examining Criminal Justice class. He said he expected his students to receive a valuable experience hearing from the officers, Lt. Michael Powell and Sgt. Rob O’Brien, but that the presentation exceeded anything he had anticipated.

    “It was phenomenal, no other way to express it,” said Tivnan, who has spent nearly 20 years in the Malden Public Schools. “It was just a great presentation and the students really got into the subject matter the officers were sharing. It was just a great day for our class.

    “To get so much first-hand information, right from the source, was so valuable to these students,” Tivnan added.

     For Lt. Powell, who is a 14-year Malden Police veteran and longtime detective, his appearance was mutually beneficial. “All of us at the Malden Police Department really enjoy interacting with young people and we are always looking for ways we can do that,” Lt. Powell said. “This was another great opportunity for us to meet some Malden kids and talk about policing and service in our community.”

     Lt. Powell said information-sharing is a two-way street. “We like the interaction because we are also very interested in hearing what our young people have to say and to let them know their opinions, perceptions and just what’s on their minds, is very important to us,” Lt. Powell.

     Sgt. O’Brien is into his fourth month as a full-time Resource Officer in the Malden Public Schools. He is districtwide, along with colleague Ptl. Trent Headley, and, like Lt. Powell, stressed the value of direct interaction with young people. “In my position now, I interact with students in the schools every day and it has been a great experience,” Sgt. O’Brien said.

“It was great to be able to go into a classroom and see what students in this specific class on Criminal Justice had on their minds” Sgt. O’Brien said.
Both officers told the class of 23 students of their backgrounds. Lt. Powell himself is a Malden High School graduate from the decade of the 1990s. He is a 14-year veteran of the Malden PD and in addition to his duties in the Detectives Division; he serves as MPD’s first Civil Rights Officer. If a case or a complaint has a civil rights element to it, Lt. Powell becomes the lead investigator charged with resolving the issue.

     Earlier in his career, Lt. Powell worked on many undercover cases on loan to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). He described several memorable cases to the students, of cases where he made “buys” of illicit firearms and/or drugs in the course of investigations, eliciting a slew of questions from students on details of the cases.

     Sgt. O’Brien is a Malden Catholic graduate from the early 2000s who enlisted in the U.S. Navy shortly after high school, spending six years in the military, where he worked primarily as a hands-on technician on a US Navy aircraft carrier. Sgt. O’Brien held the students’ rapt attention when he described details on how jet fighters landed and departed the surface of the navy carriers.

     “The students paid special attention to Sgt. O’Brien’s description of how they had to catch the fighter jets as they landed and then the slingshot method of having them take off from the carrier,” Tivnan said, “It was fascinating and the students were very interested in Sgt. O’Brien story from his Navy days.”

    Sgt. O’Brien spent two years as a Mass. State Police trooper, and has been a Malden Police officer since 2012.

   Both he and Lt. Powell spent a large part of their presentation in a question-and-answer exchange with students about various aspects of how police operate in communities, on topics such as how they investigate cases of complaints; how they prioritize them; how the cases are prosecuted and simple details about how decisions are made to pursue (or not pursue) suspects or suspect motor vehicles into adjoining communities.

    Malden High Principal Chris Mastrangelo sat in for a good portion of the presentation and said he was highly impressed. “The students kept coming up with great question after great question for the officers. The interaction was fantastic and it was easy to see that the students and the officers learned a great deal from each other.”

    Tivnan said he was not sure if the presentation was going to fill the entire 80-minute class block, but that every minute was used by the class. “It was outstanding. All of the students’ questions were answered. We could have gone another half-hour if we had it.”

    Tivnan said another visit from the officers to another section of the Examining Criminal Justice class was already in the works.

   “We will keep up these great opportunities to see and hear from our young people and all of our residents of Malden,” Lt. Powell said. 

Malden Police Sgt. Rob O’Brien, right, who is also a Malden Public Schools Resource Officer, speaks to students in a Malden High class. (Advocate Photo)
Malden High School social studies educator Richard Tivanan teaches Examining Criminal Justice class for 11th and 12th graders. (Advocate Photo)
Malden High students in Examining Criminal Justice Class listen to officers; presentation. (Advocate Photo)
Malden Police Lt. Mike Powell, with the MPD Detectives Division and also the department’s Civil Rights Officer, recently co-delivered a presentation on local policing and community service to a Malden High criminal justice class. (Advocate Photo)

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