University News

Building Community is Central to Work of University Police Sergeant

University of New Haven Police Sergeant Luis Dos Santos was presented recently with a community policing award from the United States Attorney’s Office in Connecticut in recognition of his outstanding leadership and his commitment to connecting with students.

December 19, 2018

An image of (L-R) Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney John Durham with University of New Haven Police Sergeant Luis Dos Santos
(L-R) Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney John Durham with University of New Haven Police Sergeant Luis Dos Santos

As University Police Sergeant Luis Dos Santos, affectionately referred to as Dos, walks the campus and visits the residence halls, students say “hey” and stop to chat.

“I always ask students where they are from, and we get talking about what it’s like where they live,” Dos Santos says. “I might not remember every single student’s name, but I always remember that they’re from a certain part of New Hampshire or Vermont, even where the kids are from in California and Florida.”

Their hometowns quickly become their nicknames, and he calls them “Jersey City,” “San Diego,” or “Burlington.”

“That’s how I relate to students,” he says

Since he arrived on campus two years ago, Dos Santos made a point to be an engaged presence, getting to know students, creating new programs, and working with resident assistants, all with the goal of keeping the University community safe.

“His reputation for thoroughness and his commitment to the community is well known throughout the University and the city of West Haven.”University Police Chief Tracy L. Mooney ’08 M.S.

Dos Santos was honored this fall as one the “very best in community policing in Connecticut,” receiving an award for his leadership and community outreach from Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney John H. Durham. In a release, Durham noted “that it is critically important to engage with members of the community in positive, friendly, and constructive ways, long before a call for service.”

University Police Chief Tracy L. Mooney ’08 M.S. nominated Dos Santos for his leadership and his commitment to the University and its students, and she called him a role model and mentor to the student body. She says he’s spearheaded programs including self-defense classes, a public safety block party to kick off National Campus Safety Month, and “Drunk Sundaes,” a program in which students don “drunk goggles” and operate a controlled golf cart ride to see how impaired driving affects judgement.

“His interventions and educational talks have mitigated many small problems before they became major issues,” Mooney says. “His reputation for thoroughness and his commitment to the community is well known throughout the University and the city of West Haven.”

Building community is what Dos Santos has always been about – from his first job in law enforcement when he was a corrections officer at the Garner Correctional Facility in Newtown.

“I take a lot of pride in being part of the University of New Haven.”Sergeant Luis Dos Santos

He and one other officer supervised 150-200 inmates on a block. “In a corrections setting, you have to be fair, firm, and consistent, treating your community the way you want to be treated,” he says. “You’re dealing with the inmates’ concerns and their day-to-day living experiences and that in itself is doing a lot of community policing.”

He applied that same approach as a patrol officer for the city of Waterbury, during a long career on Western Connecticut State University police force, and at the University of New Haven. In each place, he says, building trust was essential.

“Over the years, I’ve been able to solve cases and prevent a lot of other cases just from knowing students were able to come in and talk to me and that they can trust me,” he says.

Dos Santos says he was “very thankful and very humbled” to receive the award. “I take a lot of pride in being part of the University of New Haven,” he says. “We have a real connection with our students here.”