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University of Massachusetts public safety director named U. of I. police chief


Phil Ciciora, News Editor

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Barbara O'Connor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Barbara R. O’Connor, the chief of police and director of public safety at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has been named police chief at the University of Illinois, pending approval by the U. of I. Board of Trustees at its Nov. 13 meeting at the U. of I. at Springfield.

O’Connor, who has more than 27 years’ experience in law enforcement, succeeds Oliver J. Clark, who retired in 2005. First, Kris Fitzpatrick, and later, Jeff Christensen, filled the position as interim chief of police. The new chief, whose formal title is executive director of public safety, will begin her duties at Illinois on Jan. 1. The U. of I. police chief serves as the chief law-enforcement officer for the Urbana campus, and has overall responsibility for the budget, human resource management, and priorities for campus security.

“I am delighted that such a strong pool of candidates was identified for this critical position,” said Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. “Barbara has a record of solid and increasing experience in campus law enforcement. Her dedication to professional development makes her an ideal fit for my leadership team. I am confident she will quickly become integrated into the community and earn the respect of her peers and staff.”

O’Connor, who earned a law degree from the Western New England College School of Law in Springfield, Mass., has been police chief at the Amherst campus since 2001. She earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Westfield State College in 1985 and her master’s in labor studies (with research in police misconduct and collective bargaining) from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1999.

“I am honored to have been selected by the U. of I. and Chancellor Herman, and I look forward to starting my new position and working with the campus community,” O’Connor said.

“I was very impressed by the quality of the people and programs at Illinois, and to its commitment to the mission of higher education,” O’Connor said. “That played a significant role in my decision to move from my home state of Massachusetts to Illinois.”

As police chief for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, O’Connor is responsible for managing a $5 million annual budget, as well as a full-time staff of 80 people, including 63 police officers, 30 police cadets and 300 residence hall security employees.

During her tenure as chief, the university has been cited for its progressive safety programs. The campus improved security by installing state-of-the-art security systems in the residence halls and on campus. Additionally, the campus police department created a police cadet program for college students interested in a career in law enforcement.

O’Connor developed a new mission, vision and value statement with input from all members of the department. She also developed a comprehensive strategic plan with the collaboration of a committee of department members.

In April 2007, O’Connor was elected to a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen for Hadley, Mass., where she lives.