Professor Nicholas Irons knew at an early age he was destined for law enforcement."My grandfather was the Franklin chief of police and had solved the Byram Township Cat Swamp murder back in 1921," says the 25-year veteran of police work and professor of Criminal Justice."He was a guy I had a lot of respect and love for and wanted to emulate."
In his own way, he did.During the 1970s, Irons brainstormed an approach to address youthful loiterers."Some police in the department wanted to lock them up. My partner and I decided we would do something different. We met them in a bar and discussed how we could make things better for everyone." The solution: create recreational activities so they could hang out without causing problems. "We felt the ire of other police officers. They thought it was too liberal, but we hit a home run."
Shortly after he began teaching at County College of Morris, he collaborated with Centurion Ministries, an organization dedicated to freeing individuals wrongly imprisoned for crimes. Two innocent men were on death row in Ohio for robbing a bank and shooting a teller. Beginning his investigation in 1998, Irons identified a number of problems with the case. A team of individuals, using that information, worked to bring about the release of those two men in 2005.
Today, he draws satisfaction from the victories accomplished in his classrooms.
"One year I got a call from a psychiatrist telling me her patient was experiencing anxiety so would not be able to do the end-of-semester class presentation. I told her it was a course requirement, but working together maybe we could get her up there." He spent time coaching the student on preparation.
"I said, ‘Don’t make eye contact with anyone else.Focus on me – because I’m safe.’ She did the presentation and hit it out of the park.I stood up and applauded, as did the whole class. At that moment, she jumped from adolescence to adulthood, and got the best grade in class. She learned that, if you want to, you can accomplish anything."