If you were to call the Ewing Township Police Department and ask for Officer Arnold, you’d be asked which one. And if you said “The new one,” you’d be asked the same question again.
While it might not be exactly uncommon for siblings to be police officers or even serve in the same police department, it is a little less common that they graduate the academy together and start work the same day.
Chelsea and Stephen Arnold were half of the new Ewing recruits who started work in February. The other two are Joseph Toth and Alexandra Brice.
“We’ve had a lot of family members here,” said Police Chief John Stemler. “Uncles and nephews. My father was a lieutenant here. But as far as I know, this is the first time I’m aware of two siblings going through the academy together.”
That, by the way, only refers to officers entering the Ewing Police Department. The 20th class of the Mercer County Police Academy had 59 graduates, including the brother and sister team of and a second set of siblings—twin brothers George and Christian Suarez, who are now serving in the Trenton Police Department.
Four officers recently graduated the academy and joined the Ewing Police Department, including the Arnold siblings. Pictured are Alexandria Brice, Stephen Arnold, Joseph Toth and Chelsea Arnold.The Arnolds are Ewing High School grads in their 20’s who decided law enforcement was the way to go. The official assessment from Stemler is that the Arnolds are fitting in well in their first couple months in Ewing’s patrol division, following a pretty neck-and-neck time at the academy.
Chelsea finished at the top of the class academically, he said, and Stephen got a perfect score as a shooter. Each finished close to the other in those categories.
Stemler had this to say: “They’re both pretty driven.”
Driven, of course, is a code word for being competitive siblings who are close in age. Ask Chelsea if she—who’s 26 and, by 13 months, the younger of the two—if she and her brother are competitive with each other and you will get a knowing chuckle and an “oh yeah.”
Being the only two children to their parents, the Arnolds’ sibling rivalry started out in the usual manner.
“Because we were so close, we used to fight all the time,” Chelsea said. “Everything he did, I wanted to do. One day that [fighting] changed and we became very close. Now if I can’t have it, I want him to have it.”
Stephen is perhaps best described as the (literal) strong, silent type. He did not respond to several requests for an interview, but based on information from his his Facebook page, he graduated from Ewing High in 2010, studied at Mercer County Community College, and is a powerlifter.
Both siblings were three-letter athletes in high school, Stemler said.
Chelsea played softball and soccer at MCCC, and said she still plays both sports, in coed rec leagues. Both she and her brother have always been active and always into sports and fitness in general.
Chelsea said it was her brother who had always wanted to be a police officer. She, wanting to always do what he did, found it an increasingly appealing option. She didn’t start out that way, though.
When she started college at MCCC, she was a liberal arts major who knew only that she was good at math, like her accountant mother.
While her brother went through Mercer’s criminal justice program, she had a lot of debates with herself about what she might do with her life. Eventually, she asked herself an important question.
“I thought, should I just do something I’m good at or should I do something I really want to do?” she said.
Given how much her brother was enjoying his studies, Chelsea decided she wanted to enter law enforcement as well, and switched her major to criminal justice. She then transferred to the College of New Jersey to complete her degree, and she followed her brother’s pre-police job path and went into corrections.
In 2014, she said, Stephen “got into corrections and loved it. He convinced me it was for me.”
But while he was with Mercer County Corrections, she entered the state Department of Corrections in 2016. How she felt about the job once she got there was… complicated.
“I loved being in corrections,” she said. “But watching people in prison, I felt like I was trapped sometimes.”
When Stephen said he was going to take the civil service test to be a police officer, Chelsea tagged along. Both, she said, did not consider working in anyplace other than their home town.
“I love Ewing,” she said. “I bought a house in Ewing, so I thought why not be a cop where I’m going to live?”
Both siblings officially became Ewing police officers on Feb. 2. So far, Chelsea is finding it both “great” and “overwhelming.” It’s great because she’s really enjoying it—mainly the fact that as a police officer, you don’t really ever have the same day twice.
That’s actually what makes the job a little overwhelming, too, she said. There’s a lot to learn, and doing “a little bit of everything” every day makes it hard to nail down a routine. “It’s everything from missing persons to domestic calls,” she said.
But she does so far love the choice she made. Being on patrol means she can be proactive in her efforts to help the community, like stopping a suspicious driver or a speeder, rather than just waiting for a call to react to, or getting out and talking to people.
And the variety makes the days go quickly.
“I used to work eight hours,” she said of her job in corrections. Many of those days absolutely felt like a full eight hours. Now she works up to 12 hours in a shift and said those days often feel like a lot less.
Being on the job for only a couple months, Chelsea said she’s not had any life-altering or life-affirming moments of wisdom borne of the job just yet.
She does know she’s worried about her brother being safe—“not that he can’t handle himself”—and that her mother is now a full-time worrier over both her children.
Chelsea and Stephen do not work the same shift, ever. The reasons are what you would think, according to Chief Stemler—no reason to risk two siblings in a potentially dangerous situation, for one thing; no need to have family connections “cloud judgment” on the job for another, he said. “So we keep them separate.”
That may safeguard one sibling at a time, but Chelsea said her parents had already worried about Stephen wanting to be a cop and then that intensified when she decided to follow suit. She said her mother admitted to being worried around the clock now, as one of her children is almost always on duty.
Parental jitters aside, Chelsea said her parents are quite proud of both of them, which helps to know while she’s out on patrol. She doesn’t have any plans yet as far as advancing up the chain of command because she’s really enjoying where she is right now, but she’s not ruling anything out.
She’s more certain that she’s staying in Ewing, though. She has no plans to look for another department. It’s her home and this is her way of serving her community.
She said she is comfortable with Ewing and obviously familiar with the township, though she’s been surprised by something she didn’t know until she was on the law enforcement side of it.
“I never realized how much people call the police in Ewing,” she said. Not necessarily for bad reasons, or at least not for dire reasons. But the volume of calls to the department did surprise her.
“I didn’t know how much the police were needed or what they actually do,” she said. But she does know she likes being part of the solution to whatever the residents need.