O’Connor may be next chief of police

By Nicola Crean

The University Police Department will be seeing a new face on the staff if the appointment for Chief of Police and executive director of the Division of Public Safety is approved by the Board of Trustees at their Nov. 13 meeting.

If the appointment of Barbara O’Connor is approved, then she will begin her job as University Police Chief in January 2009.

“Ultimately, the decision will be with the Board of Trustees. They essentially have the last word,” said Peg Rawles, associate chancellor, adding that O’Connor is also strongly recommended by Chancellor Richard Herman.

O’Connor, who currently serves as the chief of police at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst since 2001, said the job opportunity was a step forward in her career.

“The job has additional responsibilities that I don’t have here,” she said. “This (University) is a tremendous institution and is a good fit for me.”

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    During the time that O’Connor has been chief in Massachusetts, she has implemented school safety programs that have proved to be very successful.

    She was an advocate for installing a security system for the residence halls, which included cameras at all entrances and exits.

    “It became a campus standard because it was so successful in reducing crime,” O’Connor said. “It has made a tremendous impact on crime prevention.”

    Problem-solving policing is also another factor that aids in stopping crime before it happens, she said.

    “We look deeper into the crime and investigate how it could have been avoided,” O’Connor said.

    At Massachusetts, education programs are often offered to the victim of crimes, such as larceny, she said.

    Before O’Connor would implement any new programs at the University, she plans to identify the issues on campus first.

    “I don’t come in with any preconceived notions,” she said. “Instead, I come in with a very open mind. It is important to get there and learn what the issues are by talking to officers and students about their concerns.”

    O’Connor said with every problem, there is a solution.

    The University Police Department has not had a chief of police since 2005 when O.J. Clark resigned. Since then, Krystal Fitzpatrick and Jeff Christensen have served as the interim chief, Rawles said.

    Two searches have been conducted since Clark’s resignation in order to find the right candidate for the job.

    “The second search was delayed because it was close to summer, and we were holding off interviews until we could have students back on campus,” Rawles said.

    Michele Thompson, secretary of the Board of Trustees, said O’Connor was a perfect selection for the job.

    “She sounds like a very interesting and great appointment for the office,” Thompson said. “I will be conveying that message to the board in the November meeting.”

    O’Connor said she believes in honesty and integrity and plans to bring that to the University with her.

    “I have an open access policy that allows students to reach out and contact me when they are concerned,” O’Connor said. “I want students to know that we are apart of helping them attain their education successfully by keeping their campus safe.”