January 20, 2022

SUNY chief makes mark

Jacob DeRochie/contributing photographer

SUNY Police Chief Mark DePaull, left, speaks with officers Frank Dalton, center, and Zachary Stefl Thursday morning at the SUNY police station. Since becoming chief in July, DePaull has worked to implement new policies at the department.

Mark DePaull has been focusing on expanding training for his officers in an effort to deal with a rising number of mental health calls among students at SUNY Cortland.

DePaull has been busy since taking the position as chief in July. To start, for the first few months in the position he was doing the job of three people — chief, assistant chief and investigator. Last semester he was able to fill the position of assistant chief and investigator. “Things are going smooth,” DePaull said Thursday morning in his office at Whitaker Hall. “Going from assistant chief to chief isn’t a big leap.”

When DePaull took the chief position he also took over expanding some policies at the department.

“We’re working on finishing up expanding metal health training,” DePaull said, which is needed to help with an increase in mental health calls on campus.

The department is almost finished with the One Mind Pledge, to help deal with mental health calls, DePaull said. As part of the pledge the department had to meet four goals:

• Get 100 percent of the department trained in mental-health first aid.

• Have 20 percent of the department trained in the Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team. DePaull said 40 percent of the department, eight of 20 members, is trained and two more members will be trained.

• Network with mental health officials, both on campus and off. DePaull said the department’s behavior assessment team met with faculty on campus and with the Cortland County Office of Mental Health.

The need for more mental health training is related to the growing calls the department receives. Over the last 20 years the department has responded more to mental health calls with students, DePaull said. “Twenty-seven years ago, we maybe had one student,” he said.

The department now responds to anywhere from 15 to 25 students a year with mental health calls, DePaull said.

His effort coincides with the college’s “Wellness Wednesday Series” across campus to focus on programs to help with physical and mental health. The series will feature events Wednesday nights from Feb. 7 to April 25.

Another change DePaull has been working on is combining the campuses parking and security services departments. DePaull wants to move away from writing parking tickets and use more technology to enforce campus rules. One way of doing that would be to implement the use of license plate readers, he said.

The plate readers would allow the department to tell which cars would be allowed in parking spots and which ones are not allowed to be there, DePaull said. Tickets would also no longer be printed, simply emailed to a student who violates parking rules.

SUNY Cortland police have been using community policing techniques since the 1970s, but DePaull is starting to expand it from just meeting with student groups and do more outreach to the off-campus community. This year the department took part in Toys for Tots and No Shave November campaigns, DePaull said.

The new forms of community policing outreach build off what former chiefs Steve Dangler and Pete Lalla established, DePaull said. “I’m coming from a strong foundation that has always been there,” he said.