While University of Rhode Island Police Officer Wayne Young had always wanted to be an officer, he only fulfilled his childhood dream a few years ago.
Growing up, Young said he “ironically” wanted to be a police officer, however after completing a year at Springfield College in Massachusetts, Young joined the Coast Guard where he served for 10 years. Initially, he did search and rescue before working with counter narcotics. He was stationed at several different places, including Florida and the Caribbean, and because of that, he did a lot of counter narcotics at a larger scale than what one would see at a police department.
“I’m talking containers and big ships full of drugs,” he explained, as it was his specialty in the Coast Guard.
When he finished with the Coast Guard, Young spent 15 years working in major construction. Eventually, he wanted to get into police work. He admitted to thinking he would never get the opportunity to do this and when the chance came to apply, he took it.
“I was surprised at my age that I was able to, most police departments cut you off at 35,” he said. “I was a late bloomer getting into the Police Academy.” Young was 46-years-old when he entered, one of the oldest members that the academy has ever had, he added.
When he decided to apply to become an officer, he was drawn to the URI police force because he had grown up in South Kingstown.
“I learned to swim on this campus, I went to camps on this campus,” he said. “I wanted to give back to what they gave to me.”
Young has spent the past six years as an officer at the university. His entire policing career has been here. He said he’s enjoyed getting to help students in any way that he can, including getting them back on the right track if they may have ventured away from it.
“You’re here to have fun but don’t over do it,” Young said. “Just remember why you’re here — the main reason why you’re here is to get an education. Yeah, it’s great to party and everything, but don’t lose focus on what you’re here for.” He wants students to remember that the officers are here and are approachable.
“We’ve seen it, we’ve done it,” he said. “We know. A majority of the people in this department have gone to college, so we know.”
He explained that just because they wear the uniforms doesn’t mean that the officers aren’t here to help; they are people who are here for the students and for the community. After what happened this week at Ohio State University, Young said that is why the officers are here, for moments like that.
“The main reason why we are here is in case something bad like that happens,” he said, explaining that they are trained for those reasons and are here to protect. “We are not the enemy here, we are just trying to get you through and to help.”