by Jillian Campbell
Assistant News/Features Editor
Every square inch of her desk is covered by layer upon layer of documents and papers that have accumulated over time and need to be reviewed. Her storage cabinet has turned into a pantry for those times where she just can’t fit a meal into her schedule, something that has been occurring all too frequently lately.
It is safe to say newly appointed Executive Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Karen J. Leary has practically been living in her office for the past month.
It is impossible to determine whether the transition has been particularly easy or not, because for the most part, there hasn’t been one. From the minute she stepped foot on the Springfield College campus, there has always been something that needed to get done – whether it was the coverage of an event like Shaq and Yao Ming coming to visit, or the fire alarms in the Alumni building that just won’t quit.
But still, even while juggling the happening campus, Leary believes she has a responsibility to tackle some of the bigger issues. And she has the necessary experience to do so.
Her long list of credentials is as impressive as any. She earned a Master’s Degree in forensic science from the University of New Haven, as well as a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from Westfield State. From 2002 to 2011, she was the senior manager of investigations in the police and security division at Massachusetts General Hospital. Following that, she was the Deputy Director of Public Safety and Deputy Chief of Police at Simmons College. Then in 2014, Leary moved her work to Fitchburg State University, where she was the Chief of Police, Director of University Police, and supervisor of the campus police department, the emergency management team, student security, Clery compliance, and student EMS. (She will also be heading the Emergency Management Team at Springfield College.)
“I was very fortunate to have had opportunities that provided me with valuable insight into the changing demands of campus law enforcement,” Leary said. “Developing relationships with outside law enforcement agencies and receiving support from various colleagues in the industry gave me a different perspective on college policing.”
Leary plans to use her new point of view to make valuable improvements to campus security. That includes increasing the overall safety for students. She will do so by encouraging proactive policing, increased patrols, the utilization of social media, and forming a close relationship with the campus community as well as the local Springfield law enforcement. Together they will focus on more efficient and effective crime prevention strategies.
In collaboration with the Department of Student Affairs, there will also be more focus on crucial issues such as underage drinking, binge drinking, and sexual assault. These are the topics on college campuses that are too important to ignore, and with enough persistence and education, Leary hopes she will be able to lessen them significantly.
Also recognizing the ever-changing campus atmosphere, Leary looks to higher the expectations when hiring new officers.
“Policing in a college environment has become much more professional,” she remarked. “Training has increased dramatically over the years and is on par with other law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Keeping up with this high standard is paramount to a professional police agency.”
As far as improving the safety of the student body, Leary has already implemented a Medical Amnesty Policy, stating, “Students for whom medical or staff assistance is necessary due to being dangerously intoxicated and/or under the influence of drugs will be granted amnesty from the College disciplinary process in accordance with the terms of this policy. The Springfield College student/guest who calls the Department of Public Safety on behalf of a student/guest in need will likewise be granted amnesty provided the caller is a Springfield College student/guest, and the caller remains with the Springfield College student/guest in need until a Public Safety Officer and/or campus official arrives.”
This is just one of the many improvements that have been made and will continue to be made with the dedication that Leary has for her job.
“I hope to leave Springfield College with a very robust, energetic and well trained police department that will become an active part of the community.”