College hires new police chief

by Jackie Tempera / Beacon Staff • September 6, 2012

Tharp publicsafetysmith
Smith replaces former director George Noonan
Smith replaces former director George Noonan

Following the controversial firing of former Director of Public Safety George Noonan, the college officially announced the hiring of his replacement, Robert Smith in June.

Six months after Noonan’s departure, administrators appointed Smith — who had previously served as police director at Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and Hampshire College — as the new department head.

Noonan’s firing was announced on Dec. 14  when he allegedly took too long to report the suspicious Internet use of Officer Edward Villard to the human resources department, according to Villard. Villard was fired on Jan. 6.

Deputy Chief Scott Bornstein served as the interim chief during the selection process. Bornstein, who has been employed by the college for 22 years, will return to his position as deputy director of public safety.

Bornstein did not apply for the position of chief for personal reasons, he said.

A committee was put in place to find Noonan’s replacement.  Committee members included Christine Hughes, vice president of general counsel — who served as the head of the committee, and five members including faculty and students.

Hughes,  the five committee members, President M. Lee Pelton, Dean of Students Ron Ludman, and Associate Vice President of Government and Community Relations Margaret Ings met with the finalists after the pool was narrowed to four candidates, said Hughes.

Each individual then voted for his or her desired person for the job. Smith won eight of the nine votes.

“It was remarkable,” said Hughes. “He was almost everyone’s first choice. And one person’s strong second.”

An email, sent to the board of trustees, search committee members, and ECPD officers announced the decision. Hughes said an email was then sent to the entire Emerson community.

According to the job application, the committee was searching for an individual comfortable in a diverse environment of race, gender, religion, and LGBTQ students and faculty. Hughes said Smith fulfills this need.

Hughes said she was impressed with the transgender training Smith organized for the officers while serving in his former positions at various other colleges.

“He got the transgender students to talk to the officers about what is important to them,” said Hughes.”

Smith said he hopes to establish similar relationships at Emerson.

“I will reach out to organizations about concerns and how the department can focus our attention,” said Smith.

At the start of the search in April, Hughes told the Beacon she hoped the selected officer would have experience in an urban setting.

Smith said he worked as a Massachusetts State Trooper for 26 years. During this time he worked in South Boston and Brighton.

Smith’s said that his family is originally from the Boston area and after two years in Western Massachusetts  his son and wife urged him to move back.

“I love Boston,” said Smith. “I like the idea of a campus in the middle of everything.”

Smith said he is looking forward to starting work at Emerson and building a relationship with students.

“He did a fabulous job out there [in his previous positions],” said Hughes. “Really it is their loss and our gain.”