Former 9/11 responder dedicates service to FAU students, community
The students at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton call Capt. Larry Ervin “Old School” because he’s down-to - ear th and wants everyone to know that police officers are human, too. The former 9/11 first responder said changing the negative perception of law enforcement officers is difficult, but he is working hard to reach out to the students and the Boca Raton community to improve relations.
Ervin said FAU’s campus police department has established an initiative to connect with students, surrounding neighborhoods and universities through the Community Empowerment Department of the campus police office.
“My boss, Chief Sean Brammer, got the concept of ‘We protect the Owls’ (the mascot of the university),” he said. “He came up with the concept of protecting the ‘Owl habitat,’ and the Owl habitat is all the kids that come to the campus.”
Ervin said campus police officers take care of the people on campus and put themselves in the community to make sure they take care of the local residents, too.
“We (utilize) the community initiative and take it out into the city as well, to make sure that everyone (is taken care of ) because they embraces us and we embrace them,” he said. “We have to (also) make sure that the kids embrace the city as well.”
Ervin said the Community Empowerment initiative allows him to go to Boca Raton neighborhoods and speak with residents as well as act as a liaison for the students on FAU’s campus and other surrounding universities and colleges.
“The student community loves us because a lot of times (they) are living in different communities throughout South Florida,” he said. “They experience police (presence) only when it’s necessary.”
Ervin, who is 65 and lives in Boca Raton, said he lived in New York for most of his life and moved to Florida in 2003. He was a first responder after the tragic 9/11 attacks.
FAU has regular safety drills on campus, Ervin said. Students and parents go over safety measures during orientation he explained, for things such as an active shooter on campus, which happened recently in Parkland at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed.
“We have safety plans with their teachers. We have safety plans with the dormitories (and other organizations on campus),” Ervin said. “We meet with them periodically and we go over the safety plans with them.”
The FAU Police Department continues to reinforce the necessity for emergency drills and they do “ac tive shooter” drills to make sure that everyone is in the com- munity is safe, he said.
“We have drills throughout the campus where we send a text messages to their cell phones or (messages) to the IT computers,” Ervin said. “It’s called ‘emergency alert texting.’ We let them know, if this was an emergency, this is what you should do.”
As one of the first responders during the 9/11 attacks, dealing with that tragedy has helped him better serve the students on campus, he said.
“The reason it helps me is because you understand that anything could happen at any time,” Ervin said. “It helps me understand people. It teaches us not to take everything for granted.”
Law enforcement officers usually only respond to a call when there is a fire or some kind of problem, and that doesn’t help to cultivate police-student relationships, Ervin said.
“We are trying to be more educational. So therefore we reach out to students without them having to call us for help,” he said. “On campus, we have sororities and fraternities and we involve ourselves with them. We assign ourselves to the dormitories to make sure each dorm has a community officer. If there is a problem, they know who to go to.”
Ervin said his fellow FAU officers gave him the nickname “Old School” because of his friendly nature that reminds them of how life used to be. He said his greatest achievement is reaching out to people and making a connection.
“I’m always smiling and I’m always laughing because I believe people need to see the other side of police officers,” Ervin said. “My nickname is ‘Old School’ because being around during 9/11 and all those tragedies, (I realized) you have to let people have hope.”
What are his hobbies? “Singing. I sing a little blues, a little Motown.”
At that, Ervin starts singing, “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day …”
Ervin has two daughters, Lauren and Lindsay. His wife’s name is Madeline. “My wife and I are partners in doing things together, and that gives us hope and solace and she’s a big part of my life,” Ervin said.
Capt. Larry Ervin, a police officer at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and former first responder from New York, is working to cultivate better relationships with students and city neighborhoods through the university’s Community Empowerment initiative.