Today: Jun 25, 2024

A look into campus safety at Southern

photo courtesy | SHAUNNA CULLEN Roll call for several officers getting ready to go out for the night shift, 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Special to the Southern News –

Students in the News Writing course in the Journalism Department take an in-depth look at safety at Southern in this package of stories. Students are under the direction of Associate Professor Cindy Simoneau. Megan Lawrence is the project editor. Reporters and photographers are: Shaunna Cullen, Brittany Davis, Jourdan Duncan, Freddy Heredia, Jennifer Hoffer, Eli Santiago and Jamila Young.

photo courtesy | SHAUNNA CULLEN Roll call for several officers getting ready to go out for the night shift, 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.
photo courtesy | SHAUNNA CULLEN
Roll call for several officers getting ready to go out for the night shift, 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.

A growing buzz steadily spreads across campus. Some are notified on cell phone or by e-mail by the campus alert system. Others learned about the growing police activity through word-of-mouth.

The report was that there was a man with a gun near the new Wintergreen parking garage and police from Hamden, New Haven and Southern Campus Police were on the hunt.

Traffic snarled around the intersecting streets as officers on March 13 searched the area of the Hamden transit station just outside of campus. While no gunman was found, this incident, combined with the brazen shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School Dec. 14 in Newtown, has left many wondering just how safe is Southern’s campus?

“We are not a campus that sits up on a hill with one way in, and one way out,” explained Southern Police Chief Joseph M. Dooley, in a recent interview about campus security.

In the gunman case, Southern police worked with the other officers to set up a perimeter around the campus and sent out e-mails and text alerts notifying students and staff to “shelter in place,” or to not leave classrooms.

Many students said they did not know about the happenings until it was over.

“It was all very confusing,” said Katerine Flores, a senior liberal studies major, who adds she does feel there are enough protocols in place. “I didn’t know if we were on lock down or not, and what to do, if we were on one.”

Southern has a host of procedures in place to keep students and faculty safe during emergency situations, which Dooley referred to as “layers.”

The first layer he said is the SCSU alert, which consists of text messaging, phone calls and e-mail. When an emergency takes place on campus, students and faculty signed up for the program get an alert to their phone letting them know what is happening and what precautions to take. Dooley said his biggest concern with this is that people have to be signed up for the program.

Jessica Petruzzelli,  a junior education major, uses the program for its advantages.

“I get text alerts and emails sent to my phone. I like that we use text alerts so I hear about it first,” said Petruzzelli.

Another security layer is the siren public address system. There are five speakers placed strategically around the campus, and in the case of an intruder, or a severe weather warning, the speakers emit a series of distinct sounds followed by a digital pre-recorded message or a live public address from Dooley himself.

For the third layer the police department works extensively with the campus public affairs office us to put up messages on the school’s homepage with information pertaining to the emergency.

“We’ll put into a timeline what’s transpiring and [what] to do next,” said Dooley.

The campus police is one of the 99 organized police departments in the state.  There are always, at least, three officers on duty and someone in the police station 24/7. The 27 police officer force seen patrolling the grounds are not just security, as students may think, they are all armed and have gone through standard police training.  Dooley said training for new recruits can take as long as 18 months.

Southern’s police force conducts a training initiative every summer, as well as a recertification every three years.

Officer Ivan Torres, who can be seen on bicycle patrols in the early morning hours, said most police departments do not do this as frequently as Southern.

The campus, which spans the two geographic communities of New Haven and Hamden, has close to 200 surveillance cameras throughout. There are cameras in all the parking garages, including 75 new high-tech units in the new garage.

“The visible presence of the camera is a deterrent to crime,” said Dooley.

The top crime on campus usually involves theft of personal items in locations across campus. Dooley advises students to be more diligent about securing their belongings in any location on campus and not to assume you can even step away from them for a short time.

Other crimes encountered include liquor violations that can lead to disciplinary action, drugs and on-campus burglaries.

In 2008, the streetlights were updated on Farnham Avenue, as well as on the North Campus walkway.

Heightened commuter safety techniques have been put in place since the Sandy Hook shootings with more night time surveillance in parking lots through officer patrols and watching on surveillance cameras.

Interim Residence Life Director Robert DeMezzo said he feels the campus police do a good job especially as compared to some other colleges.

“I feel like with our campus police, there’s no ‘them’ or ‘us’ and we really work together to make sure the students are safe,” said DeMezzo.

Dooley said he has been looking ahead for more ways to protect the Southern community. Some of his plans include making sure there is a landline telephone in every classroom, and outfitting classroom doors with push button locks, as well as getting the commuter population more engaged with educational programs.

The next big project he wants to undertake is Campus Civilian Emergency Response Team, where individuals on campus would be trained to be building marshals.

The police department has just wrapped production on its campus safety video with the help of the SCSU Communication Department. It will be shown at new student orientation sessions.

With all these new items Dooley wants to put into action, and with the current safety measures that are already in place, he sees hope for the future.

“I’m an optimist by nature, and I believe things will get better,” said Dooley.


Chief Joseph M. Dooley

Starting his law enforcement career in 1981, Southern Police Chief Joseph M. Dooley started his law enforcement career as a dispatcher in the Orange Police Department. After being sponsored to go to the Police Academy in his junior year while at the University of New Haven. He worked his way up the ranks in Orange becoming a patrol officer, detective and assistant chief of police.

After retiring as chief of police in Orange, Dooley took two weeks off and in  2006 accepted the job as police chief at Southern. Dooley said he loves Southern and believes it’s a great community.

During his tenure at campus Dooley took advantage of Southern’s educational programs and received his MBA in business administration in 2010. Dooley said with the help of Southern’s community, he’s been able to be proactive and stay ahead rather than playing catch up with crime.

Looking at his career Dooley expresses optimism.

“I came to Southern looking to do 10 years of service, I haven’t really set a date on when I will retire,” said Dooley. “I’m at 32 years of service now, maybe I’ll hit 40 years and go beyond that.”

A family man, Dooley has a wife and two daughters. One of his daughters attends Southern.


Officer Ellis Reaves

Officer Ellis Reaves said in addition to making the campus safe, his favorite part of being part of Southern’s police force is getting involved with students.

“The fun part of the job is trying to be proactive, trying to be visible.”

In July, Reaves will observe his sixth year as an officer.

He said “helping students and keeping them safe” is one of his top priorities.

A prior job relocation was the main reason Reaves wanted to become an officer.  He said if he was a little younger when he decided to join law enforcement he may have wanted to be a state trooper.

“I’m happy with this [police force]. We have a good department,” said Reaves.

Reaves teaches Rape Aggressive Defense class at Southern.

Reaves has been married for over 18 years, his wife is a dietary aid. They have four children ages 29, 26, 17 and 13.


Ride along with Officer Elis Reaves and Thomas Galasso.

Students are seen coming and going from the usual weeknight activities and classes. Some are walking to their cars, others to their dorms. That’s the usual flow of campus on a Thursday night as seen by campus police officers.
On April 25 campus police invited some student journalists along to see their patrolling responsibilities.
Activity that night ranged from simple building security checks to a detox situation with a student and a chase leading to an arrest.
While some students may think of Southern police officers are merely security guards, Chief Joseph M. Dooley said officers are exactly the same as any other police force in the state and encounter similar incidents.
While riding along with Officers Ellis Reaves and Thomas Galasso the job was brought into more focus for students.
The first stop of that Thursday night was to a detox situation in one of the freshmen dorms with Lt. Richard L. Randall. The student did not require medical attention, but was ticketed for underage drinking.
Then,  Officer Reaves, who was issuing the ticket to the student, proceeded to the next task of the night: securing and alarming buildings and general patrolling. All academic buildings are locked between 10 and 11 p.m. and are unlocked around 6 a.m.
Officers are assigned different areas of the campus to patrol each shift.
That same night, Officer Thomas Galasso patrolled the buildings around campus.
“It’s not unusual to find people stealing from buildings,” Galasso said. “So we do our parts in checking the buildings and making sure the doors are locked.”
Galasso said most of the incidents on campus happen on Thursday nights. The officers usually deal with drunken drivers, fights and detoxification in the surrounding areas.
“We’re not out to be the bad guys like everybody thinks,” Galasso said. “We do this to keep the students on campus safe.”
After securing the facilities operations building, Reaves discussed his experience as an officer. He explained about how he has not had to draw his gun, so far.
“I would have to assess the status of the threat in order to know what weapon to draw, “ said Reaves.
While parked outside of Temporary Building 7, Reaves saw one of the Southern police cars chasing an Acura on Fitch Street; Reaves also pursued the vehicle as back-up. When the car’s driver did not pull over, the chase ensued.
Driving past the Gas n’ Go on to Arch Street, the driver turned left onto Burke Street and pulled into a driveway. There were about five officers at the scene. The three men were asked to step out of the car.  All complied, with some commenting they did nothing wrong..
Once the identities were run through the police crime system, only the driver was detained. He was put into Reaves’ police car. The man was brought back to the Southern Police Station where he was issued a summons.
Reaves said this was not a typical occurrence on a Thursday night.
So, while students take for granted they can safely move around the campus, Southern police officers are busy ensuring that safety net continues to exist.


Officer Thomas Galasso

Officer Thomas Galasso has been an officer at Southern for the past five years  and patrols campus on the night shift.
Galasso said each of the officers gets assigned buildings to check around campus.
When Galasso first started at Southern he said there were more gun calls in the surrounding area.
“I didn’t really choose this,” Galasso said. “I wanted to be a town cop. But because of the benefits and all of that I chose it. I just wanted to experience different opportunities and Southern was the first one that offered.”
Ever since he was a child,  Galasso said being a cop was always a priority. He joined the military for six years and that is what he said really pushed him into wanted to pursue being a cop.
When Galasso first started at Southern he said there were more gun calls in the surrounding area.
Knowing how to determine when something  is suspicious is something Galasso said he just picked up while working with the police force for so long
“Especially at nighttime, I look for movement,” Galasso said. “I look for things that look out of place, like a car that maybe shouldn’t be there. On the street while the kids are walking, rather than look at the kids to see what they’re doing wrong, I look at the bigger picture. I make sure no ones in the area watching the kids or stalking the kids. It’s all about keeping them safe.”
Galasso said it’s all the training and experience throughout the years that allow him and the officers to have tunnel vision and know exactly what to look out for to keep the campus environment safe.


Officer Ivan Torres

Officer Ivan Torres has wanted to be a police officer since he was a child.
Although Torres studied avionics in school, he ended up joining the military and served eight years as a radio man in the National Guard. After working as an administrative assistant in mental health facilities, he said couldn’t see himself patrolling a building.
“I wanted to get into law enforcement,” he said.
He has been working at Southern for 17 years.
Torres said he really enjoys patrolling by foot or by bicycle every day.
“It makes you more approachable,” he said.
Torres also served previously as the adviser for Southern’s paintball team. He took the team all the way to nationals a few years ago, where the team earned third place in its division.
Torres said he liked working with students.
His current is busy being a father to his 13-month-old daughter.


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