Silent shift: State College police officer stays busy while working holiday

While some enjoyed presents, food and family on Christmas Day, the men and women of State College’s law enforcement community geared up for another day of work.

Sgt. Todd Scholton, 19-year veteran of the police department, went to work at 6:30 a.m., prepping for a 12-hour shift of patrols and residence checks.

“The calls aren’t that much different on Christmas,” he said, steering a police SUV onto an empty East College Avenue. “The volume is different. You have more people at home rather than on the road or at work.”

Patrolling the borough as well as parts of College and Harris townships Christmas afternoon was a quiet affair for Scholton — roads were mostly deserted, occasionally passing a couple walking their dog on empty sidewalks; radio chatter was at a minimum.

Coverage remains the same over the holidays, he said. While office staff is off for the holiday, the number of police officers on duty remains the same.

Besides the normal calls, he said, one of the main objectives of working on a holiday is to simply keep busy. Officers routinely check about 40 apartment buildings and vacation homes around the State College area, looking for break-ins or unusual activity.

This means a floor-by-floor, door-by-door check of many of the apartment buildings in the borough. Scholton said for the larger buildings, it’s easier to take the elevator to the top and work your way down.

A door found slightly open in the Penn State Apartments on Gill Street was answered by a confused-looking young man, surprised to find the police on his doorstep.

“We’re just checking the apartments during break,” Scholton said to the man, who ensured the door was firmly closed as he left.

Driving around the perimeter of Penn State, Scholton said he’s been a police officer since 1991, marking 23 years of service in February. He said he’s probably worked half the Christmases during that time, but doesn’t keep track of that kind of thing.

“To be honest, I don't think too much about it,” he said. “For a while today, I forgot it was Christmas.”

Working on Christmas simply means postponing the holiday by a day or so, he said. His family will have already opened presents and eaten dinner by the time he gets home, but he gets to travel and visit extended family the following day.

“It was more of a big deal when my kids were younger,” he said. “Now that they’re older, they know what I do. I can give a chance to the younger guys to be with their families.”