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Puffer, Johnson and Rumenapp: Prepared to serve

Passion for careers in law enforcement unites 3 college athletes


Erika D. Puffer
Deputy sheriff, Otsego County Sheriff’s Office (New York)
Hometown: Oneonta, New York
Current residence: Unadilla, New York
School: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, SUNY Oneonta, 2011
Sport: Women’s basketball

Christopher Johnson
Police officer, New York City Police Department
Hometown: Levittown, New York
Current residence: Staten Island, New York
School: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, SUNY Oneonta, 2009
Sport: Men’s swimming and diving

Lindsey (Doxtader) Rumenapp
Police officer, Oneonta Police Department
Hometown: Oneonta, New York
Current residence: Oneonta, New York
School: Bachelor’s degree in psychology, SUNY Oneonta, 2013
Sport: Women’s soccer

Although Erika Puffer, Christopher Johnson and Lindsey Rumenapp attended the State University of New York at Oneonta at different times, the former student-athletes found common ground in their love of college sports and pursuit of careers in law enforcement.

While Puffer and Johnson knew from a young age that they wanted to become officers, Rumenapp came to the realization during her senior year of college. Nevertheless, all three agree that the lessons they learned as student-athletes play a valuable role in their jobs now.

Johnson, born and raised in Long Island, New York, wanted to continue his family’s proud lineage in law enforcement and civil service by following in the footsteps of his father, an active member of the Fire Department of New York, and two grandfathers, both of whom were police officers. Therefore, when Johnson enrolled at SUNY Oneonta, majoring in criminal justice was an easy decision.

Similarly, Puffer has been intrigued with law enforcement for as long as she can remember. Even after beginning to study elementary education at Broome Community College in Binghamton, New York, her real passion for law enforcement won out, and in 2008, she transferred to SUNY Oneonta to pursue a degree in criminal justice.

Rumenapp thought she had her career path planned. It wasn’t until she was about to graduate with honors with a degree in psychology that she started to imagine a career involving law enforcement. Rumenapp’s strong desire to help others has provided  her with the solid foundation she needed for a successful career in civil service.

“It was something I was always interested in but never actually thought of pursuing until my senior year of college,” she said. “It lets me make a difference in people’s lives.”

In addition to their pursuit of professions as police officers, Puffer, Johnson and Rumenapp were also passionate student-athletes on the college’s basketball, swimming and diving, and soccer teams, respectively. 

After playing soccer and basketball at Broome, Puffer joined the SUNY Oneonta women’s basketball team. Due to an injury, she managed the team as a sophomore before taking the court as a forward during her junior and senior years. She fondly remembers the rewards and life lessons that come from working with a team, such as learning to communicate and collaborate with a variety of personalities. These experiences translate well into her current career.

While Puffer played basketball, Rumenapp pursued her degree at SUNY Oneonta while playing on the women’s soccer team. She joined the team in spring 2010 after transferring from Hobart and William Smith Colleges after one semester.

“I had a great experience,” she said. “I met a lot of good friends and learned a lot about how to work hard to reach my goals. And I learned how to balance life, school and sports.”

Rumenapp believes college sports instilled a sense of discipline, enforced a solid work ethic and taught her how to effectively deal with stress. In 2013, these lessons came in handy when she took the civil service exam but failed to receive the job offer she wanted. Knowing sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, Rumenapp took the result in stride. After taking the test again the next year, she was hired by the Oneonta Police Department.

Johnson, similar to his SUNY Oneonta peers, credits his student-athlete experience with providing a solid foundation and real-world skills that continue to serve him with the New York Police Department. While pursuing his degree, Johnson competed on the men’s swimming and diving team for four years.

“Real life is tough,” he said. “(In college) waking up early for morning practice, balancing a full class schedule and afternoon practice while completing homework assignments at night, on top of maintaining a social life, was an invaluable experience.”

Puffer, a week after her graduation in 2011, landed a job at the Otsego County Jail in New York, where she remained for four years. In 2015, she completed the law enforcement academy and became the first female deputy sheriff in Otsego County.

“There are many things I’ve encountered in a short amount of time that have changed the way I look at people and at life,” she explained. “Success isn’t about the awards you get or the accolades that come your way. Success is being able to go home every night and realize the life you have makes you happy.”

Overall, the three civil servants view their experiences at SUNY Oneonta as an incalculable benefit that has helped them grow and serve their communities better.

“I want to continue to learn and become the best police officer I can be,” Rumenapp said. “I love making a difference in people’s lives. Knowing that I personally did something to make the community a better place or helped an individual is a good feeling.”

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