Chief of police search continues

In Campus News, News
Cpt. Dennis DeMaio speaking at the open forum. Photo by Anibal Ortiz / Daily Titan

Conference room doors stood open at the University Police station’s Emergency Operations Center as campus police hosted another open forum Friday, inviting the public to speak with one of the candidates for campus chief of police.

This forum is part of the ongoing process of finding a new chief of police after Chief Judi King retired in June.

Six candidates have been interviewed so far. When the search committee makes its recommendation, Willie Hagan, vice president for administration and finance, will review the committee’s findings with President Milton Gordon. Gordon will make the final decision and swear in the new chief.

Kandy Mink Salas, Ph.D., associate vice president for Student Affairs and chair of the search committee, said that after all candidates have been interviewed, the process of making a final decision should take three to four weeks.

She also noted that candidates are subject to an extensive background check.

Though only a few people participated in the conversation, candidate Cpt. Dennis DeMaio was questioned for the full 45 minutes of scheduled time.

DeMaio, who is currently Airport Operations division commander and chief of Airport Police Services at John Wayne Airport, has over 38 years of law enforcement experience.

He was the chief of police for Villa Park from 2000 to 2003 and has been in the Orange County area for some time.

“You don’t just call a police officer when you have a crime, you call a police officer when you have a problem,” said DeMaio. “The trust factor makes it easier. The more we’re out there, the more we make contact, the more trust we can build on the university campus, the more information we’re going to get that something bad is going to happen, before it happens.”

He said he has been interested in serving in an academic setting for a long time.

“A chief of police for the community has to be an advocate for the community, has to be an advocate for the university, has to be somebody that’s willing to go out to any and all groups on the campus and be able to answer those tough questions,” he said.

The forum gave Lea Jarnagin, dean of students, a chance to talk to DeMaio in a friendly, semi-formal atmosphere.

“He seems to be very interested in having a police department that would serve the community, and that’s nice to hear because I believe that should be a part of the police department’s role on the campus,” said Jarnagin.

Jennifer Faust, Ph.D., associate vice president for Academic Affairs, asked DeMaio what his response would be to specific scenarios, like the level of deference and discretion campus police should show toward faculty and popular individuals.

“You know what I’ve found in my career? I’ve found that transparency always trumps all other things,” DeMaio said. “You need to be transparent, you need to not be afraid to say, ‘This happened.’”

“The Dean of Students office works very closely with the police department. We want to make sure that we’re on the same page about things–how we respond to the community, how students are treated–that’s very important to us,” Jarnagin said.

DeMaio started out as a foot-patrol officer in Clairton, Pa. in 1973 and has been involved in various areas of law enforcement, including the County of Orange Boiler Room Apprehension Task Force (COBRA).

He received his A.A. in social science from Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pa. and his B.A. in administration of justice at the University of Pittsburgh.

Jarnagin expressed pride in the university’s selection process.

“That’s what this process is all about: allowing those multiple stakeholders (like students and faculty) to come in, get a sense, have a point of view and contribute so that the search committee has that perspective not just of themselves, but all of the different people on campus who are concerned,” Jarnagin said. “That is the way we do things here.”

Before the forum, DeMaio toured the campus with King and met with Gordon.

“There’s so much life left in me, so much law enforcement, so much to give back and so many things to do,” DeMaio said.

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