By Jose Diaz
FSW’s new director of Public Safety, Jerry Connolly, aims to update the department’s practices to be more responsive to the FSW community.
“We want to implement modern policing philosophies, create a strong leadership program within Public Safety, and recruit quality candidates to become police officers here,” said Connolly. “Those efforts are supported by FSW administration.”
Connolly began as director of Public Safety on September 16, filling an eight-month vacancy. The previous director, Anthony Giaimo, resigned before the start of the spring 2019 semester after serving about six months. FSW’s previous Public Safety captain, Reginald Mitchell, filled some of the director’s duties until he resigned over the summer.
Connolly sees an opportunity for FSW to update how the department operates, from emergency preparedness drills to the day-to-day interactions between students and officers.
“I’m focused on reviewing a lot of the emergency preparedness manuals, looking to update them based upon what external threats or internal threats are to the FSW community,” Connolly explained. “I’m looking to continually strengthen our response plans, and if we can predict those kind of events, what we can do to prevent them.”
Connolly is a staunch advocate of progressive policing policies. He sees modern practices evolving to use social media and technology to diminish violence.
“Now, we’re dealing with social media, cybersecurity, bullying, to the point where it reaches a criminal nature,” Connolly said. “We’re addressing what’s going on in society now, as opposed to how we were addressing society ten years ago.”
Connolly also encourages his officers to get to know the people at FSW.
“The biggest thing that I advocate officers to do is community-oriented policing, getting out there, talking to students, talking to faculty, interacting with visitors, and engaging people throughout their shift.”
Both FSW and Connolly hope to formally accredit Public Safety. Accreditation would recognize the campus police department as meeting defined standards of competency, authority, and credibility.
“Accreditation gives us a guide to doing things right,” Connolly said. “Every aspect of law enforcement from recruiting, to training, to records management, to discipline. It sets our boundaries and guidelines to what we do as an agency.”
Connolly presents those changes as being progressive and modern. “That’s the direction that, ultimately, the school wants to see Public Safety progress into.”
In addition to accreditation, Connolly expressed the need for increasing and upgrading security vehicles with laptops and obtaining fingerprint scanners to “take care of the needs of the FSW community a lot more efficiently and effectively, as opposed to times when things were clunky and not as effective as they should.”
Connolly came from the Haines City Police Department in Florida, where he served as deputy chief for a year and a half. Before that, he was a captain in the Bureau of Colleges and Universities for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, at which he worked for 18 years. During a career spanning 29 years in law enforcement, he has worked for the Winter Haven, Florida, police department and was an officer in the Boston area. In 2009, Connolly received his Doctorate in Human Services with specialization in Criminal Justice.
“I’m a researcher at heart,” said Connolly. “The biggest thing is, what are other agencies across the country doing? What are agencies not doing? And what can we do better? I always want to think up ways of what we can do better, even better than what other agencies are doing.”