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One force behind the team

DPS Cpl. Andy Clary doesn't help student athletes out when they're in trouble. He's there to prevent the trouble.

Andy Clary watches from behind the basket as Syracuse basketball star Kris Joseph launches a 3-pointer on the practice court of the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center.

The shot bounces off the rim, not exactly the swoosh that Joseph intended. Clary smiles and says, "Oh boy," in a jokingly disappointed tone. But Clary is not a graduate assistant or a Syracuse basketball official -- he is a cop.

As a corporal for athletics in the Department of Public Safety, Clary regularly attends Syracuse basketball practices and interacts with players from one of the top-ranked teams in the nation.

"It¹s a dream job," Clary said. "The coaches have been great since I started. I introduced myself. They opened the doors to me."

Basketball practices are very vocal and typically last two to three hours, Clary said. About 20 to 30 visitors, whether they're faculty or someone the coaches know, gather to watch practices at the 'Melo Center.

"It¹s loosey-goosey compared to football," Clary said. "Football is more strict. Coach (Doug) Marrone doesn't allow people to come into practice like that. But Coach (Jim) Boeheim opens the doors and gives tours of the facility as practice is going on."

As a regular attendee of practices and the officer who stands behind the Syracuse University bench at basketball games, Clary finds time to mingle and joke with the players.

He has the codes and keys to get through most of the 'Melo Center, including the basketball locker room, where a flat-screen TV sits above the wooden lockers that have individual pictures of each player and electronically-numbered locks.

While Clary laughs with the players, he's still an officer with a badge and a gun. Clary said he tries to give the students advice on how to deal with DPS, since the interaction isn't always good.

A lot of athletes, Clary said, might come from hometowns where they don't have good interactions with cops.

"They might get here with a negative attitude toward us even though they don't know us," he said. "So we try to break down those walls, build a relationship, tell them positive feedback."

Clary said he always tries to show up on calls where he thinks athletes might be so they can see him. And when athletes see Clary outside practices and games, whether it's at Kimmel Food Court or a South Campus party, they'll usually shake his hand and ask how he's doing or how long he¹s working that day. 

"In the past they might just walk by and say, 'Hey, how you doing?' or something like that," Clary said. "But when they see me now, we carry on conversations."

Clary's job doesn't stop with the athletes, however. He is part of DPS' community policing division, in which officers interact with students around campus and get positive and negative feedback about DPS.

During the past four years, DPS Chief Tony Callisto said he's emphasized increasing the connection between students and police through community policing.

Since establishing the athletic position, Callisto said DPS hasn't seen as much trouble with student athletes.

"His job isn't to get people out of trouble," Callisto said of Clary. "It's to work with people before they get in trouble."

And it's a job that most students tell Clary is awesome. 

"I always tell them I have the best job in the world," Clary said. "I love it."

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