By Naidelly Coelho
Asst. News Editor
University Police Chief John Santoro announced he will resign from his position at Framingham State University. His last day will be April 21.
At 1 p.m on April 21, he will relinquish command to Deputy Chief Martin Laughlin.
Santoro said his decision to leave Framingham State was due to obtaining a new position in New Hampshire, where he moved recently. His new job is closer to where he lives. Because of a "pre-planned vacation," he will be leaving his position at FSU early and starting his new position May 1.
He said his mantra is that someone should never be in the same position for more than 10 years because there needs to be room for other people to also be great leaders.
Santoro said during the time in a leadership position, one of an individual's goals should be "creating new leaders to take over when you leave. So leaving them gives them the chance to hopefully step up to those roles of deputy chief and chief and become a leader themselves.”
He said after 33 years of training and experience, "I'm able to go to a new agency and help those folks."
Santoro added, "I'm not saying they're not doing that already, but I'll be able to help them and mentor them and inspire them and help them be the best they can be - while also, of course, protecting and serving the community that they work for.”
Santoro reflected on some recent initiatives.
The University Police bought their first hybrid car last June to promote the University’s sustainability campaign.
University Police decided the hybrid car was a “great” option for FSU because its low fuel consumption decreases greenhouse gas emissions, he said.
Several sister universities have also acquired hybrid cars. FSU has been testing the car this year, Santoro said.
Dale Hamel, executive vice president, said the money for the new police car came from the facilities budget.
The Facilities Department has 15 cars, including police cars, vans, and trucks, and each year, some portion of the funds goes toward replacing a car, he said.
Santoro said, “Out of the five [cars], one is hybrid. Now that we've had it for a year, we realize that it works well for us. And we're going to put a proposal in to buy another one as we need to replace another vehicle.”
University Police have also adopted a new 21st-century term used by law enforcement: “Guardians of the community," he said.
The slogan has been painted on University Police cars.
“Over the years, the mantra has changed for the country to put the [role of] guardians first. So guardians, then warriors, as opposed to warriors first,” he said.
He said the new slogan is a “great” way to show the new mindset.
“Our office has been educated and trained about it. The mindset has been [instilled] and now we're putting the message out there.”
He said changing the slogan cost about $50 per car.
In addition to the new slogan, the hybrid car will have its own logo that identifies that it is a hybrid car.
Santoro said he thinks this will be a way for students to see that the University Police are also helping the environment as FSU has an agreement to promote sustainability.
FSU will be obtaining a Comfort Caring Canine (K-9), which is a type of therapy dog for students and the elderly. The dogs are also used in healthcare environments, according to the Comfort Caring Canines website.
Santoro said Officer Shawn Deleskey researched this option for five weeks and decided that having a therapy dog would be a great fit for FSU.
Deleskey will be the handler of the dog during this process. He will be the direct guardian, Santoro said.
During the summer, the dog will be undergoing training and having bonding time with Deleskey, he said.
The purpose of the dog is solely for student, faculty and staff comfort, Santoro said.
He added the “dog is strictly for comfort. The dog will not be used to search for drugs, guns, weapons, it will not attack or apprehend people and will not assist a police officer - any of those functions. It's strictly a comfort care and a relationship dog.”
The dog will also be used for mental health calls, as many people find comfort in dogs, and also for the officers as well when they have traumatic calls, Santoro said.
“There'll be protocols in place and training along with the Counseling Center and other professionals in that field on how and when to use and deploy the dog in certain situations,” he said.
Santoro said the dog will also help surrounding communities, including sister universities.
“The dog can't handle helping 100 people. So maybe they call us and say, ‘Hey, we are your sister school. We help each other. Is it possible for you to bring a dog up to help us with our situation that we're dealing with?’” he said.
Dairin Collazo, a sophomore fashion and design major, said having a dog on campus will help students' mental health.
“It's definitely needed because me, personally, I want an emotional support animal. So I think that would help a lot of students on campus,” Collazo said.
Alexia DeOliveira, a sophomore sociology major, said the dog is a great addition to FSU.
DeOliveria said that she had some questions when she first heard about the comfort care dog. "I'm questioning, ‘What are their intentions behind it?’ ‘How often is it going to be available?’ ‘Where are they going to have it?’ Or if it's just like, ‘Oh, we're getting a therapy dog just to make campus look good.’”
Executive Vice President Hamel said the funding for the therapy dog came directly from the police budget.