UConn picks its first female police chief
HARTFORD, Conn.—A longtime Massachusetts police officer who went on to lead two large universities' public safety departments was named Wednesday as the University of Connecticut's next police chief.
Barbara O'Connor, 50, will leave the University of Illinois next spring to start at UConn on a date that has yet to be determined. She will become the first female police chief at UConn, which has 76 sworn officers and the same statutory authority as Connecticut municipal police departments.
"Being a police chief at a large university requires a specialized understanding of the unique challenges a college campus presents. Barbara has exactly the kind of background and experience we were looking for, and we look forward to her arrival on campus," UConn President Susan Herbst said Wednesday.
O'Connor was chief at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for eight years before joining Illinois in 2009, and previously was an officer for the Yarmouth, Mass., police department on Cape Cod.
O'Connor's starting salary at UConn will be $164,700 annually.
She takes over for retiring Chief Robert Hudd, whose $247,000 salary drew criticism even though UConn said it increased his pay as he took on extra duties as a university vice president. In that role, he oversees all public safety operations ranging from police and fire to environmental safety, building inspections and the university's locksmith office.
O'Connor's work will be more narrowly focused to police and fire operations at Storrs, and public safety at the UConn Health Center in Farmington and the regional campuses, UConn officials said.
O'Connor has said the UConn job was the only position that could have lured her away from the University of Illinois -- which, in a twist, had lured away its current president, Michael Hogan, from his previous spot as president of UConn.
O'Connor said the move is bittersweet. Although she is excited about coming to UConn and returning to New England, she said she loves the Illinois job and will greatly miss the colleagues who have become dear friends.
"My plan of action at UConn will be to get to know as many people as possible and talk about the vision, direction and goals we want for the organization. We would do that collectively," she said. "I'm not a big believer in, `It's all about my thinking.' I see it as a shared vision, and the UConn students will be a major part of that."
O'Connor received a bachelor's degree from Westfield State College in Massachusetts in 1985. She also received a master's degree from UMass in 1999 and a law degree from the Western New England College of Law in Springfield, Mass., in 2005.
"Universities in general are very special places, and it's a privilege to be part of the overall mission of educating young people," she said Wednesday.
Hudd will stay on as UConn's chief until O'Connor starts work next spring. The university will reassign the additional duties in his job -- such as the building inspection work and environmental safety -- that will no longer be part of the chief's position.
Hudd's impending retirement comes after a 30-year career at the school, where he started in 1981 as a police officer and worked his way through the ranks to become deputy chief in 1987 and police chief in 1989.
O'Connor said Hudd's reputation and legacy at the department are among the reasons the chief's position was so intriguing and attractive to her.
"They've had a great leader at UConn in Bob Hudd, who's respected across the country. When I was chief at UMass, he was among those I gravitated to and he gave me great advice and counsel," she said.
UConn also achieved its first accreditation under Hudd in 2000 from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and has been re-accredited every three years since then.
Only 13 other Connecticut police departments are accredited by CALEA, a voluntary process in which agencies show they comply with national standards ranging from management professionalism to community outreach.