October 22, 2021

Community policing key for SUNY police chief

Jacob DeRochie/ contributing photographer

Mark DePaull, the new chief of SUNY Cortland Police, is shown outside the department’s new headquarters on campus.

A photo of Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor sits on a filing cabinet overlooking Mark DePaull’s desk.

It’s a reminder of the kind of policing DePaull wants at SUNY Cortland and the kind of policing that has stuck with him since he began his career 27 years ago.

“Comedy set aside, the way Andy Taylor took care of the community was very caring,” DePaull said of the iconic 1960s-era television character who protected Mayberry, North Carolina. “He took care of the individuals, it was down to earth.”

DePaull, 51, of Lansing, is in the midst of his second week as chief of SUNY Cortland Police. Before assuming the position after Steven Dangler retired earlier this month, DePaull was assistant chief to the office since 2006.

Community policing will continue to be a big part to the job under DePaull’s leadership. “It builds bridges with the community and keeps us in tune with what’s going on,” DePaull said.

Within his first week as chief, DePaull created a community policing team to lead other officers through the different aspects of community policing, he said.

As chief, DePaull plans to continue with Dangler’s initiatives in community policing. “I will reach out to groups on campus and meet with them,” DePaull said.

Training for officers will also be expanded, to involve how to respond to mental health calls, dealing with people with disabilities and working with the transgender population on campus, DePaull said.

Accreditation will also be on DePaull’s mind. In 2011, the department received its initial accreditation and last year it was re-accredited, DePaull said. “We’ll have another re-accreditation visit in five years.”

During that time DePaull hopes to expand policies to cover the topics of mental health and dealing with disabilities, as well as de-escalation skills, he said.

SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum said DePaull is a first-rate person, “a solid citizen.” Having worked with the department for many years, DePaull has gained the knowledge for the position, Bitterbaum said.

Along with working well with officers, Bitterbaum said DePaull has also worked well with students, faculty, staff and the community over the years. “It became obvious to the community he was a good choice.”

DePaull started with the department in 1990 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2001, then assistant chief in 2006.

It wasn’t his goal to become chief, he said, however as the promotions came along DePaull began to look ahead. “I looked at the next logical step for me,” DePaull said.