Dennis DeMaio, a law enforcement veteran of 38 years, joined the ranks of newly appointed members of Cal State Fullerton as the new university chief of police on Jan.17. The new chief was selected after an extensive interviewing process that began December 2010 and ended February 2011, according to DeMaio.
DeMaio succeeds Judith D. King, the first female chief in the CSU system, who served for more than 12 years. She announced her retirement in 2011. King said she and her husband, who was chief of police at Cal State Los Angeles, both decided it was time to retire and move to their ranch in central California.
DeMaio, who will take over the 63-member police department including 27 fully sworn police officers, has had a well-rounded career, which began Feb. 1, 1973, from working at a municipal and county level to his most recent employment as airport operations division commander/chief of airport police services at John Wayne Airport.
“This police department brings me back to my roots. I enjoy serving, I enjoy being in uniform, I enjoy serving the country,” said DeMaio. “I am a baseball kind of guy; first base was municipal policing, second and third were county and federal law enforcement, and my home run is being able to work at the university level. I have always wanted to work in the university level. I am hitting a grand slam here.”
Despite his broad background, DeMaio will have adjusting to do. King said the toughest task will probably be adapting to the differences between working for the county government and working for a university, and learning the different nuances and reporting lines.
“It is a little different so that is part of why I am staying on for a little bit to help him with that transition,” said King. She said she expects DeMaio will bring “continued recognition that the university police department operates on equal footing with other organizations in the county.”
It was DeMaio’s ranged experience and overall good nature that made him a standout from the other 25 to 30 candidates who applied for the position.
“It was a combination of his extensive experience throughout his career in law enforcement, especially his recent experience as the captain and officer in charge of John Wayne Airport, which is a specialized service to the public much like (the university), so we thought that was a good fit,” said William “Bill” Barrett, interim vice president for administration and finance, and chief financial officer.
“His interviews went well, his references were outstanding so the more we looked into Dennis, the more we liked him. He gave us the right attitude and energy and experience to be a great chief here,” Barrett said.
DeMaio said he is delighted to take everything that he has learned and come to this university and be able to take charge of what is already a good police department.
“My goal is to be part of this team and to take them from good to great. I want every student on this campus to feel that they can go anywhere at any time of the night and that we are going to protect them,” DeMaio said.
DeMaio plans on learning everything there is to learn at the department first, then look at the policies that King has implemented and try to build on those if possible. He said he would like to enhance CSUF’s communication with businesses around the university, like a business watch program, where you go out to solicit businesses to understand what suspicious activity there is.
The biggest problem he sees on campus is theft.
DeMaio said every university is going to have theft, but he would like to try to step up patrols so that the officers make more contact with students and amplify their visibility on campus.
“I wear a uniform, I am going to get out there and want to be seen and talk to students,” DeMaio said.