The University’s Department of Public Safety brings decades of experience and a deep sense of purpose, conviction, and commitment to ensuring the safety of the University community.
April 26, 2022
By Jackie Hennessey, Contributing Writer
When Ronald M. Quagliani ’93, ’05 M.S., ’14 M.S., meets with his leadership team, the four people gathered around the table talking strategy or enhancing safety training have more than 125 years of experience working in law enforcement and public safety.
They’ve run two city police forces, worked for the state police, handled security detail for the Governor’s office, and helped lead the City of West Haven Fire Department. Three of them are University alumni with seven University degrees between them, and a number of their children are attending the University or are alumni themselves.
The associate vice president of public safety and administrative services, Quagliani oversees a team that includes University Police Chief Adam Brown '93, '19 M.S, Deputy Police Chief Brett Mahoney, and Chris Reed ’00, ’18 MS, executive director of fire, environment, and workplace safety. Together, they have one central focus: keeping the University community safe at a time when crime rates are rising around the state and across the country.
“Our goal is to have students be able to navigate this current environment and be successful and safe,” Quagliani says. “For our undergraduates, this is the first time they are stepping out. This is a transition period for them. We want to give our students the tools and resources to help them move through the world. We take that very, very seriously here.”
‘The University is very near and dear to my heart professionally and personally’
There are only two private universities in the state with a police department with sworn officers – the University of New Haven and Yale University – and “ours is accredited by the state of Connecticut,” Quagliani says. The University’s Police Department is supplemented by a private security force with security guards stationed at locations on and near campus.
“All of our police officers have had years of experience with municipal police departments or with the state police, and they’ve brought all of that expertise and knowledge with them,” he says.
It all begins with Quagliani who knows the streets of West Haven very well. As a 19-year-old West Haven patrol officer, he began walking those streets in 1984. He worked them as he moved through the ranks of the department, serving as chief from 2005 to 2009 and receiving the Distinguished Chiefs Award from the Police Commissioners Association of Connecticut.
Since his arrival at the University in 2010, he has developed a robust safety training program that the Department of Public Safety continually revisits and implements enhanced technologies to prevent crime. “The University is very near and dear to my heart professionally and personally,” he says. “I have a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees from here. My children went to the University. I take it very personally to try to make sure that our campus community is safe.”
In his state police work, Brown looked for patterns in crimes, and he and his officers here do that routinely, taking note of what’s happening in the city and on campus. They see when criminal activity is happening in the area and adjust officers’ patrols. “People who are looking for opportunities to commit crimes then adjust their schedules,” Brown says. “It becomes a kind of chess match.”
Deputy Chief Mahoney brings three decades of experience in policing, working his way from patrol officer to police chief in Waterford. “You name the job in the department, I did it,” he says.
Mahoney, who joined the University in November, is the newest member of the public safety leadership team. He says one of his key goals is building trust and connection with all students.
He’s gotten to know many students who are interested in criminal justice and law enforcement but what he really wants to do is “build bridges with those students who may not have had positive experiences with police in their communities at home,” he says. “Those are the gaps that I would love to be able to fill.”
“I’m learning about the people I need to reach out to, to affect those changes – the staff in the Office of Residential Life, the Dean of Students, and others,” Mahoney adds. “They are great people.”
Reed knows the campus much like Quagliani knows the streets of West Haven. Reed arrived at the University after retiring as the West Haven’s Deputy Fire Chief and fire marshal. He’d been inspecting buildings on and near campus and responding to emergency calls since 1987. Working in the areas of fire, environment, and workplace safety, he oversees safety plans for the residence halls, science labs, and the exterior campus and creates safety seminars and emergency plans for the entire University community.
‘There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes’
The department’s approach, Quagliani says, is three-pronged. “First our officers build a connection with students, faculty, and staff,” he says. “We want students to know we’re real people. We are fathers and mothers.”
To that end, a police officer is assigned to each residence hall, and the department follows a community policing model “so our students know individual officers on a personal level,” he says. “We’ve worked hard – and continue to work hard – to make sure we communicate with and collaborate across all the different constituencies on campus.”
Quagliani and the team meet regularly with student leaders as well as with members from the Dean of Students Office, residential life, health services and many other departments. In addition to protecting students, faculty, and staff, they try to mentor students, to encourage them to make positive and wise choices so they don’t get in trouble with the law.
Their collaboration extends outward to the West Haven Police Department. The University’s police officers are sworn in by West Haven’s Mayor, which means that they have jurisdiction beyond the campus boundaries. The city’s police department “backs us up, and we back them up,” Quagliani says.
They also work closely with municipal police departments all over the Greater West Haven area. Quagliani, Brown, Mahoney, and Reed bring a rich network of contacts in city police and fire departments, at state police barracks, and at colleges and universities throughout the state to their work as Chargers.
The University’s Police Department is part of an alliance of police and security departments at universities throughout the region, and they talk frequently. “We may see similar crimes, certain things going on at certain times," Brown says. “We share ideas.” There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes.”
‘One earbud in, one earbud out’
The second focus of their work is on teaching – students, faculty, and staff – on ways to keep safe. For students, training in personal safety and awareness begins as soon as they arrive for their SOAR Orientation program in advance of their first year and continues throughout their time at the University.
The leadership team lets students know that “our doors are always open,” Brown says. Quagliani says they also let parents of prospective and current students know that “communication and transparency” are what they are about. They give out their office numbers and emails to parents and talk often to them about their concerns.
Mahoney says they ask students for feedback on and safety training programs and make adjustments from that feedback. Students, faculty, and staff, take part in active shooter training. They have developed a new active shooter training program that will launch in the fall. The leadership team works regularly with resident assistants to help them, in turn, address public safety issues with students.
Their public safety training and messaging to all students centers on a number of key points:
“Know your surroundings,” Mahoney says. “Make good choices.”
When walking on campus or off campus, or anywhere, if you’re going to wear earbuds, “have one earbud in, one earbud out,” Mahoney says, so you can hear what is going on around you.
Report anything that seems unsafe or suspicious. “If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t,” Quagliani says.
Quagliani says they’ve designed public safety seminars for international students who “are becoming acclimated to a new campus and a new country,” providing them with crime-prevention strategies.
Reed, in turn, focuses on fire safety and making students understand that while they may feel like “nothing will ever happen to them, year in and year out people die in fires and safety-related incidents,” he says, adding that he always tells students when they are cooking, if “they are heating it, don’t leave it.”
“We teach them about potential hazards, to listen for and not ignore alarms,” Reed says. "We want them to always know two ways out– not just on campus, but wherever they are – how to get out of a situation, and how to call for help.”
Tech Tools: Virtual Walk Home, Card System for Entry, Closed Circuit Cameras
Another key emphasis is on continually updating technological tools to prevent and fight crime. In recent years, the University has moved from a key-based to a card-based system so that people need specific credentials to access residence halls, offices, and parking lots.
Over the last 12 years, Quagliani says the University has developed an extensive closed circuit television system that is monitored 24/7 by the police department, along with continual updates to covert and other security systems.
One of the most vital tools, public safety team members say, is the LiveSafe app. The public safety team posts important public safety and public service updates and announcements. It’s one of a number of ways, Brown says, they reach out to the University community with timely information.
Students, faculty, and staff can use the app to report suspicious activity or a problem unfolding. A key feature is the “virtual walk home,” which lets students have a roommate, friend or family member monitor them – much in the way the “find my iPhone” app works – as they walk from across campus, enabling them to check in when they arrive. If they don’t check in, the person monitoring them can send an alert to the dispatcher.
The student walking can reach out to the police dispatcher at any time, and, should they find themselves unable to talk, they can text back and forth with the dispatcher, while the app captures the student’s geolocation. “Students always communicate using their phones, so using the LiveSafe app is easy for them,” Quagliani says.
‘We take care of one another here as a campus community’
Mahoney adds that the app can be used wherever students are – off campus, in their communities at home, or at the University’s campus in Prato.
They are encouraging all students and all members of the campus community to get the app and use it when they need it.
Quagliani points out that no campus – no city or town – can be made completely safe, but the University’s record of safety has been very strong.
“Over the years, our crime rate has been very low,” he says. “The challenge is how do we keep that low crime rate in the societal environment we are in right now. We can’t hide from it. We have to deal with it and help our students develop the skills they need, and we have to continually adjust. The way we do that is by educating our students and our campus community. Everyone plays a part in keeping our campus safe.
“One of the things that drew me to the University is the feel of the campus, as it has a family-oriented feeling,” Quagliani continues. “We’re small enough that you get to know the student body. You get to know the faculty and the staff. We take care of one another here as a campus community. And we take a great deal of pride in that.”