Chief of police finalist Jacobo Negron promises a 21st-century approach to policing
By Haley Hadge
An open forum for the University Police Chief Search hosted by Lorretta Holloway was held for finalist Jacobo Negron in Dwight Auditorium and over Zoom on Nov. 29.
Negron’s career arc has spanned from serving as a wedding DJ to his current job at Harvard University’s police department where he has worked for the past 18 years.
He said he has been the administrative chair for the Association of Harvard Latinx faculty and staff for approximately two-and-a-half years.
He added this role led him to get involved in the Employee Resource Group Council, where he works with six different affinity groups throughout the university.
Outside of his university positions, he was the president and founder of the Massachusetts Latino Police Officers Association for five years, Negron said.
“I created that association after my experiences with other national organizations throughout the country, such as the National Latino Peace Officers Association, The National Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, and also local groups,” he said.
In response to a question from Ilene Hoffrening, director of the health center, regarding how a 21st-century police department should operate, Negron referenced the “Final Report of the President’s Task
Force on 21st Century Policing” and listed the six pillars outlined in this document.
According to the report, these pillars are: Building Trust and Legitimacy, Policy and Oversight,
Technology and Social Media, Community Policing and Crime Reduction, Training and Education, and Officer Wellness and Safety.
He said in the instance of hate speech on campus, the police are obligated to protect “both sides” from any physical violence. In order to deal head-on with these situations, there is a need for preventive “procedure and policies of how we’re going to move forward with things like that.”
He added he doesn’t like the “knee jerk reaction to social justice issues,” and bias training for officers needs to be “constant.
“As a department, we should recognize the racial injustices that are happening in our country,” he said. I honestly believe we have departments that are afraid to do that. But why? We shouldn’t be – we should be able to talk about that.”
He added these are “tough” conversations to have, but they are necessary in order to “help the community heal.”
Referring to the president’s task force report, he said as chief, he would want to collaborate with the University’s health services office to implement a program to prevent situations where officers are put on a scene they are not trained or qualified to handle.
Negron said, “Police officers are not mental-health professionals.”
He added it is important for social media outreach to be innovative and include the surrounding Framingham community rather than a “copy-and-paste” program being undertaken across the country such as “The Pink Patch Project” or “Coffee With a Cop.
“It’s not genuine. It’s nothing new,” he said.
Negron provided an anecdotal example of how to personalize an outreach event. He said rather than promoting “Toys for Tots,” collaborate with “non-profit organizations here in the town of Framingham.”
Carla Catalo, corporate and foundation relations specialist for the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs, asked what Negron considers the biggest needs of the University’s police department to be and why he is the best candidate to address those needs.
He said ensuring the office is adequately staffed would be his priority so that officers’ “wellness” are not negatively impacted by too many double shifts.
“I want to make sure that they’re working, but also that they’re not overworked,” he said.
Cara Pina, faculty co-chair of the Council for Diversity and Inclusion, asked how Negron would provide transparency on campus policing with students, faculty, and staff.
Negron said he would recommend instituting a “crime workload dashboard” on the department’s website. This would include the last three years and would be updated monthly moving forward.
Kathryn Washburn, a junior computer science major, asked Negron how he believes university police departments are perceived and what types of community outreach he has participated in to “change” this perception.
Negron said, “It depends on the institution,” and the efforts of each department are what ultimately determine its public perception.
He said if you “really make the effort” to get to know the community you are serving, “that changes everything.
“Walking through those gates at Harvard Yard – it was one of those things that changed me to really get to know the community. Even though I was a police officer, I was still a community member,” he said.
Negron serves as Community Engagement and Inclusion Chair at Harvard.
This job is “very simple,” he said. “It’s to build a bridge one brick at a time.”
He added he was invited to be a moderator for affinity spaces, which was “key” for students to “see somebody under that uniform.”
Washburn followed up by asking, “How would you ensure the recruitment process reaches applicants that match the demographics of the campus?”
Negron said it’s imperative for the department to communicate effectively with the University’s marketing team when designing job descriptions that move beyond “basic qualifications.
“We want more than just that,” he said.
“Recruiting applicants that are a reflection of the community would be my priority. ... I want officers who are compassionate, inclusive, professional, and courteous,” he said.
He added part of the search would include candidates that are multilingual in order to improve communication with a greater percentage of the community.
He said, “As a police department, we have to be able to create an identity [and] tell a story so that folks who want to be part of that story are able to join us and be part of the family for FSU.”