Newly appointed Chief of University Police Sal Simonetti began his duties on July 22 and is working to integrate himself into the department and campus community.
Simonetti started his career in Rochester but later returned to his hometown of Webster, N.Y. where he worked for 20 years, most recently as an administrator. Although he said he already has plans for the department, his initial focus is on making a smooth transition and learning what the community requires from the police force.
"I have lots of plans," said Simonetti. "But I think for the most part, the thing to do is to not be so focused on what I intend to change, but really focus on what I need to learn … I have a lot of experience as far as police administration goes, but policing is different no matter what community you're in."
Simonetti said that his plans center on the community and its needs. Making himself and the officers accessible to everyone - whether they are students, faculty or visitors - is a top priority, he said.
"The police should be looked upon as people that you can go to, people that you can trust and people that you can rely upon for service," Simonetti said. "I want to ensure that the officers are providing that service that everyone expects."
Simonetti said that his initial plans include an update of policies and procedures. "Along with that," he said, "I have a long-term goal of getting the department accredited through the New York State Accreditation Program."
Simonetti was involved in the accreditation of Webster's police department and was also an assessor for the state.
Less than 20 percent of police departments in New York are accredited. The accreditation program requires compliance with a set of 132 standards in administration, training and operations.
There's also the issue of the UP facilities. "This isn't a facility that's conducive for a police department," said Simonetti, noting that the facilities are both inconvenient and potentially unsafe for visitors and officers. Budgetary constraints make a quick fix to these problems improbable.
With so many standards to set in motion and unfavorable facilities to deal with, Simonetti said he predicts it could be a number of years before the department becomes accredited. "It's something that the community could be very proud of," he said.
It's unlikely that students will feel the effects of the change this year, but Simonetti said that he hopes that if anything is noticed, it is an increased officer visibility. "I hope students will feel comfortable approaching officers," he said.
According to Simonetti, the transition has been smooth thus far. "I've gotten a lot of good feedback from officers and they've got a lot of good ideas," he said. "They really seem like they want to be involved, and I'm looking forward to bringing them on board and making them part of the change."