The Charger Blog

University of New Haven Is Well Represented Among Leadership of Local Law Enforcement

Many current and former members of the New Haven Police Department – including several of its top brass – are current and former University of New Haven students. They believe their time as Chargers prepared them to excel as public safety professionals and as leaders.

February 23, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Karl Jacobson ’22 M.S., chief of police for the NHPD.
Karl Jacobson ’22 M.S., chief of police for the NHPD.

As a member of the New Haven Police Department, David Zannelli ’23 MPA got to be familiar with the University of New Haven well before he began his first graduate course. Now a Charger himself, he will soon join several of his colleagues as University of New Haven graduates.

As assistant chief of the NHPD and the married father of three young children, Zannelli has juggled many important responsibilities in addition to his studies. He says having the option to pursue his Master of Public Administration, which he expects to complete this semester, online and when it fit his schedule was “extremely helpful.

“I decided to pursue my MPA at the University of New Haven because I know what a great partner the school is to the NHPD,” he continued. “The quality of the faculty is widely known as among the best in the state for my field and concentration of study.”

Those faculty include Lisa Dadio,’87, ’88 ’92 M.S., a retired NHPD lieutenant who now serves as director of the University’s Center for Advanced Policing and assistant dean of the Lee College. Many of their fellow alumni are also current or former members of the NHPD, including police chiefs past and present.

“I loved the reputation the University has in the criminal justice field,” said Zannelli. “I expect my degree to help me professionally by making me a more well-rounded and knowledgeable administrator at a police department and a public organization.”

‘Brought me back to the reason I became a police officer’

Karl Jacobson ’22 M.S., the NHPD’s chief of police and a graduate of the University’s M.S. in Criminal Justice program, also completed his degree online. However, he is also very familiar with the campus, which he says he loves and calls “great and very safe for students.” His daughter Kelli Jacobson ’25, who is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, lives in University housing.

David Zannelli ’23 MPA.
David Zannelli ’23 MPA.

Jacobson believes his degree has been integral in preparing him for his role as police chief. While it covered a variety of important topics from the history of policing to programs created to help address challenges within the criminal justice system, the program, he found, also prepared him for challenges he did not anticipate when he first began his coursework.

During Jacobson’s time as a graduate student, George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis. Jacobson, then assistant chief of the NHPD, saw firsthand the impact Floyd’s death had across the country – including in New Haven.

“I was working on a paper about Black Lives Matter and there was a 2,000-person protest in front of the police station,” he recalls. “This paper and the information from the master’s program helped me respond and see all sides of the issues. In fact, the courses I was taking made me a better assistant chief and better able to work with the community and the officers in a different way. The courses brought me back to the reason I became a police officer.”

‘Cognizant and mindful of my position’

For John Healy ’23 MPA, a captain with the NHPD, earning his Master of Public Administration has also had a far-reaching impact on him professionally. He chose the University because of its “great reputation,” and he enjoyed the opportunities his coursework provided to explore the issues and challenges involved with public organizations.

“It has also expanded my knowledge in many areas I otherwise may have not explored, such as requests for proposal (RFPs) associated with grant writing, which has helped me as a police captain,” he said. “I enjoyed the weekly discussion posts the most. These provided many different perspectives on class topics that opened doors to different approaches and ideas, which I found helpful.”

Alumni say the programs are also affordable for students who, like members of the NHPD, are public safety professionals. The University offers a 50 percent tuition discount to part-time and graduate students who are active public safety personnel and first responders.

For Zannelli, the NHPD assistant chief, one of the things he liked best about the MPA program was that faculty knew about his role as a public safety officer and were accommodating. His role as a leader at the police department could mean his schedule was unpredictable, and he was grateful his professors understood his responsibilities. After all, many of them, such as Prof. Dadio, have firsthand experience serving as a leader in the field.

“There were certain times when a homicide or officer-involved shooting would occur, requiring me to respond and take command of the incident for several hours or days,” Zannelli explains. “When I notified my instructors of the situations, they were reasonable with assignment deadlines and did not penalize me. I appreciated the instructors being cognizant and mindful of my position.”

Karl Jacobson ’22 M.S. speaks at a press conference.
Karl Jacobson ’22 M.S. speaks at a press conference.