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Search for new college police chief launches

by Jackie Tempera / Beacon Staff • April 19, 2012

Nineteen weeks after George Noonan was fired, a committee of students and staff members met to discuss desired qualities for a new director of public safety and work toward appointing a new chief last Wednesday in a closed meeting in the Walker Building. 

The committee, selected and lead by Vice President and General Counsel Christine Hughes, will meet regularly to sift through applications and complete interviews with prospective candidates. 

Noonan was let go in December after he allegedly took too long to refer the suspicious internet use of Officer Edward Villard to the human resources department, according to Villard. Villard was fired on Jan. 6. 

Gloria Noronha, a representative from the Office of Diversity, Michael Arno, the college’s conduct coordinator, and Michael Weiler, a department of communication studies associate professor, are the three staff members on the committee. Two student representatives—sophomore Rebecca Isenhart, a journalism major, and junior Alex Ates, a BA acting major—will also have a say in the decision.

At last Wednesday’s meeting, Hughes said the group reviewed the job application so that committee members were well aware of the type of candidate that would be qualified. 

“We went over the history of the leadership, the challenges of this school, and the kinds of experience that would be helpful,” said Hughes. 

Hughes said the Emerson College Police Department’s newly formed union poses a major challenge for a prospective chief.  

“We want someone who is familiar with [unions],” she said. 

According to the job application, a person seeking to apply for the position must have worked for at least 10 years in a leadership role in public safety. The individual must also be comfortable with a diverse environment in terms of race, gender, religion, and LGBTQ students and faculty. 

“We have visions for the kind of person,” said Hughes. “We want someone who understands Emerson’s uniqueness and diversity and will be tolerant of that diversity. They have to prove their comfort level.”

Hughes said she received about 40 applications thus far.

Interim chief Scott Bornstein, who took the role after George Noonan was fired in December, would not comment on whether or not he applied for the permanent position. 

Many applicants asked that the process be kept confidential, said Hughes. She said privacy is essential at this stage in the search. 

“The college and the students will end up the loser if this promise is not kept,” said Hughes. 

For this reason, members of the search committee declined to comment on the process. 

Hughes said candidates will go through two initial interviews—one with the committee and one with her. 

“I want there to be a candid exchange,” said Hughes. “I want them to be able to ask what the boss is like. It is easier to talk about Chris Hughes, if Chris Hughes is not there.”

Hughes will work with human resources to develop a checklist for the search committee to use. 

Senior acting major Landry Allbright said she hopes the committee finds an authoritative person to take the position. She also said it is important that the chief of public safety know how to communicate with students. 

“There is a fine line between informing students and scaring them,” said Allbright. “We used to get a lot of emails from George Noonan that would talk about these vicious stabbings and things, and it was just unnecessary.”

If students want to contribute to the search, they can contact the committee’s student representatives or Hughes. 

Hughes said she has no deadline for finding someone to fill the position.

“Getting it right is more important than getting it fast,” she said.