Service is important to PennWest California campus police officer Donald “Josh” Gettig, who volunteers regularly with Special Olympics Pennsylvania.  

Since 2009, he has participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which unites officers from law enforcement agencies and corrections departments across the commonwealth to raise money for Special Olympics. He assisted athletes Feb. 14-16 at Seven Springs Mountain Resort prior to the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games and will be at Acrisure Stadium on Feb. 24 for the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge benefit.

“I got involved because my dad was a liaison for the Torch Run, to keep that tradition going,” Gettig said. His dad, Darrel Parker, was a Munhall, Pa., police chief and member of the Allegheny County district attorney’s office. Donald Gettig, his grandfather, was a Washington County constable.

“There is definitely something to be said for helping these athletes and just generally hanging out with them,” he said. “It’s very rewarding.”

“Officer Gettig has been representing our department for several years participating in Special Olympic events,” said PennWest Police Chief Ed McSheffery. “It just reinforces what type of person he is. We are very fortunate to have people like Josh in our society who donate their time to great causes such as this.”  

Building relationships also matters to Gettig on the job at California, where he has been an officer since 2012. He also is an assistant commander and team leader for Washington County S.W.A.T.

“In general, law enforcement brings you in contact with ordinary people who may be having the worst day of their life,” he said. “They are counting on us to help them handle the situation. It’s the ultimate public service to help people. Police officers provide a community-based service seeking the best possible resolutions.”

For California students, interactions with Gettig and other officers are typically much more mundane, but still important to their overall experience at PennWest.

“We often are one of the first points of contact for our students,” he said. “They’ll ask us where things are, who do I go to for financial aid. If a student has a question and they see us, they’ll ask it. It’s nice that we are approachable in that way.”

Last semester, he met with students in the Criminal Justice Club to answer questions about his profession.

“Interacting with students from different cultures and walks of life and getting to meet new people are the best things about working here,” Gettig said. “We are all responsible for the experience our students have on campus.”