Alden Foster says he always knew he wanted to be a cop, and he began working toward that goal as a summer intern with the NYPD at the tender age of 14. Foster enrolled at John Jay fresh out of high school in 2005, helped by a position as a College Aide that allowed him to attend school and work at the same time.
“My goal was to come here and become a cop, then retire in 20 years,” he said. “But being at John Jay opened me up to so many new ideas and opportunities to work in the different fields of criminal justice.”
Foster grew up around law enforcement. His mother worked as an executive assistant to two police commissioners, and a family friend, retired NYPD inspector Timothy Pearson, became Foster’s mentor. Pearson, who later became president of the New York chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, also attended John Jay, and he pushed Foster to do the same. “One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is if you don’t have a mentor, find one,” said Foster.
At the same time he was attending college, Foster was already making his mark in law enforcement, beginning with the NYPD First Deputy Commissioner’s office. He went on to serve with the New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office, the U.S. Secret Service, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, and as a policy advisor under former Commissioner William Bratton. He says it was tough, and that he had to work weekends and take online classes to make it happen, but he finally graduated in 2012 with both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.
Despite the bright future that lay ahead of him, Foster never forgot his roots growing up in a housing project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Police/community relations is extremely important to Foster, and that’s reflected in his current position, Deputy Director of Youth Services and Community Engagement. It’s a new position, created by Bratton last August, and Foster is the first to hold the job.
“I oversee all of the NYPD youth programs, including youth collaborations with other city agencies,” he said. “My job is to make sure relationships with youth remain strong, and to coordinate efforts to help young people across the city.”
The youth programs Foster coordinates include the NYPD Explorers program, Cops and Kids sports leagues, and the Summer Youth Police Academy. He also travels to local schools to give presentations on topics like gangs and bullying.
“When I speak to these young kids from the housing projects, I can say ‘Hey, I’m a minority from the same environment as you. I’ve seen gangs and violence, but there’s always a way out.’ I could have gone anywhere, but I wanted a better life for myself and my family,” said Foster, who is also an adjunct professor here at John Jay. “Not only do I get to impact people at work every day, but I get to come here and prepare the next generation to take over,” he said.
Teaching is a rewarding experience for the young professional, who derives great satisfaction from knowing the impact he makes on his students. One John Jay student recently contacted Foster to say that he had applied the lessons he learned in a leadership class, and was promoted at work as a result.
For his record of achievements, Foster will receive the Outstanding Young Alumnus award at the 2017 Alumni Reunion in April. “I’m able to wake up in the morning and love what I do,” he said. “In both of my positions at John Jay and the NYPD, I make sure I’m constantly giving back.”