As the public opinion of safety and police officers changes, the University of Rhode Island’s new police major strives to create a tight-knit community with open conversation.
URI’s Campus Police Major Michael Jagoda was hired on April 28. He said he manages the daily operations of the department and assists the director of public safety. Prior to URI, Jagoda worked as a commander in the Connecticut State Police for almost 23 years, where he retired as the commanding officer of one of their largest barracks.
One of Jagoda’s main points with the URI police force is to build accreditation, which he referred to as the “goal standard” set by the Department of Justice.
“I’m sure you’ve seen recent events of Ferguson, Baltimore, Oakland,” Jagoda said. “A lot of things that they saw which were, for lack of a better word, failures [where] they didn’t have good policies in place, they didn’t have good supervision in place, they didn’t have good training in place. And [with] accreditation they have about 250 standards in place that you have to meet. And a lot of that covers leadership training, career development, proper policies and procedures, performance evaluations, very important standards.”
Jagoda said that implementing of the accreditation process and trying to uphold those standards “shows that you’re being progressive, that you’re listening to your community’s stakeholders and that you’re trying to correct those issues.” He also said he places a large importance on student relations for the police department.
“One of the first things I did when I came here was hear the concerns from our students, how the police could be more effective and efficient in serving them,” Jagoda said. “My message to them was, ‘This is not my police department, this is your police department. And how can we better serve you?’ So I heard some of the issues and concerns, and my philosophy, especially with policing, is it’s a partnership. And if we want to solve some issues and problems it’s a shared responsibility.”
The URI Police have an open-door policy at their office. Jagoda said that students are welcome to come up and just talk to them if they want to.
“We’re here to serve them, and if they see something that we’re not doing right we want to hear about that, and we’ll take the steps necessary to correct those,” Jagoda said. “Because we’re a police department, it’s a shared responsibility. And we’re looking really to put some community policing programs in place. And if they have some input, or if they have some experiences from back home, programs that worked, we want to hear about those programs.”
Jagoda is originally from Wallingford, Connecticut, but came to URI for his undergraduate degree. He said he always wanted to work in the public safety field.
“Back when I was a URI student, I really kind of wanted to follow Ralph Nader, who back then was a big advocate for consumer rights and everything,” Jagoda said. “And I was a consumer affairs major here. But when I went back during the summers to my hometown in Wallingford in Connecticut I volunteered with the volunteer fire department [and] became an EMT. So I did a lot in public safety and I found that it was a good opportunity where I could make a difference in my community.”
One of the aspects that Jagoda said attracted him to working on a campus was the creativity that college students have and the environment that creates. During his time with the Connecticut State Police he was able to get experience with a variety of colleges as well, and the URI major opening offered him an opportunity to continue that work
At Jagoda’s last police job in south central Connecticut he said some of his responsibilities included universities such as Yale University, University of New Haven, Sacred Heart, Fairfield and Bridgeport. Â “I got a lot of experience with higher education, and I found it really rewarding,” he said. “I found the energy on campus was creativity, the innovation, a lot of energy. And I kind of wanted to come back [to] where it all started for me.”