New security chief brings new attitude to campus

New security chief Lawrence Rooney in his office at the south end of campus. Amber Reichart Photo

New security chief Lawrence Rooney in his office at the south end of campus. Amber Reichart Photo

Lawrence Rooney, a former command sergeant major for the commandant’s office at Norwich University, took over the post of chief of security for Norwich on Aug. 1. Originally from Plymouth, Mass., Rooney has 25 years of experience with police work in Plymouth and retired as a detective.

The new chief of security has been on the job for two months and has quickly brought some new thinking to the post and instituted changes. For example, Norwich security now has body cameras for its officers.

Rooney said, “It was time for a change,” mentioning why he chose to move from the commandants’ staff to the security post. He has a total of 32 years of experience in the field of security.

“I also have a college background; I was also for a short time the assistant director of public safety at Middlebury College when I first came from Massachusetts,” said Rooney.

Bizhan Yahyazadeh, the director of facilities operations and conference services, formed the committee that reviewed applicants for a new security chief. There were 12 applicants who had college experience, and the committee narrowed it down to three possible candidates they felt best qualified to pick from. Yahyazadeh said the key factors in making a choice to pick Rooney were the importance of security on campus, as well how the job should be done.

“He was a natural candidate for the security force, he was well-respected with the students and we wanted to make sure security’s functions are understood. Security should be helping students, we are not here to find faults with people’s attitudes, we have to have a friendly attitude, a customer service attitude,” said Yahyazadeh.

He went on to detail the work of the former head of security and acknowledge his service to the school.

“It’s only fair to acknowledge the great work of Michael Abraham,” said Yahyazadeh. Abraham retired as a Marine Corps major and served as an assistant commandant for several years and when the security post came available, Abraham was chosen and the held the position for about 20 years.

“He was a very responsive and respected chief of security,” said Yahyazadeh. Abraham retired on good terms with the university on Sept. 1, making way for the new chief to take over.

Several things made Rooney the perfect choice in the eyes of Yahyazadeh. “Under his previous profession he was a police officer in Massachusetts, he had a deep knowledge of law enforcement, and he understood the legality of required knowledge. And the second thing, he was already at Norwich, he was familiar with the University’s requirement, the university’s culture, both lifestyles, Corps of Cadets and civilian, and that’s a huge plus,” said Yahyazadeh.

Rooney says his style is a key. “My expertise is community policing,” said Rooney. He wanted to bring a bit of change to the security office and has already implemented some improvements aimed at connecting to the student body. Student dispatching has been added to the security office, as well as work study for those interested or wanting experience in the field of criminal justice.

That, he said, is just a start. “Well, there are a lot of changes we’re looking at, we’re re-evaluating the whole way we look at security and how officers interact with the students,” said Rooney. Students can be found working with security on a daily basis and get a hands- on experience that is leaps and bounds different than a normal work study job on campus.

“There’s a lot of training required of us, the (federal) Clery Act Training, CPR, first aid, hazmat,” said Rooney when mentioning what is required of the security staff. Safety,he said, is the main concern of any security or campus police. Members of the security team have received an upgrade and are now required to carry body cameras with their daily uniform while on duty.

“The body cameras, it’s a safety factor” in regards to both the students and his officers.

A normal day in the life of the chief is a long strenuous day filled with everything from phone calls, emergencies, building unlocks and also complaints. The new chief had some comments on his new duties.

“My least favorite is dealing with parking. I review the logs, incident reports, check my email from the deans, commandants, and respond to parking issues,” said Rooney.

Patrolman V.D. Gomes from the City of Hampton Division of Police in Virginia remarked on the importance of safety and training that a new security chief should have. “Prior experience is particularly important for security personnel. Even though The University is a private institution, every individual is entitled to their rights as laid out both by both constitutional and case law, but also as laid out in the NUSRR. A violation of those rights could easily be violated if proper training is not given or updated with law that adapts with changing times,” said Gomes, a Norwich Alumnus. Based on his own experiences with NU security, he made it clear that prior law enforcement can only help Norwich security staff.

“I believe that the new security head with prior law enforcement experience will benefit the image of NU security and the relationship among the student body,” he said.

“He’s overly qualified for that job” said Paul Putney, a command sergeant major and the senior enlisted advisor for second battalion in the Norwich University Corps of Cadets. He worked with Chief Rooney for five years as a colleague on the commandants’ staff. “The fact that he is very familiar with the law enforcement aspect of the job makes him very qualified, as well as working at Middlebury for several years,” he said. Putney praised another quality that he felt stood out. “He’s friendly, he’s willing to listen to you, he’s not judgmental in any way. I think it’s a great opportunity for Norwich.”

How long does he plan to stay on in the post?

“As long as they’ll keep me” he said.

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