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UNH Welcomes Its First Ever Women Police Chief

Emma O'Dell

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TRACY MOONEY— stood excitedly as she returned to the school from which she had received her master’s degree. However, this time she stood in front of everyone, as she was sworn in, as the new police chief for the University of New Haven.

After tedious work narrowing down the applicants, Ronald M. Quagliani, the Associate Vice President of Public Safety & Administrative Services for U.N.H., was there to congratulate his longtime friend and new collogue to the UNH campus.

Quagliani, who helped in the hiring process, shared a few of the things the Board, which consists of someone from, Student Affairs, Human Recourses, a faculty member, and a Public Safety member, looks for.

“The job requirement, was you had to be a sworn law enforcement officer, with 15 years of experience in a supervisory capacity, had to have a bachelor’s degree, and you had to demonstrate that you have been successful in that that supervisory role.”

The hiring process, which started in February, began with about 23 application candidates that are current supervisory law enforcement officers, the search committee narrowed down the candidates to six. Then they did a day on campus, which then narrowed it down to two candidates. Then a full background process is done, background check, fingerprinting, polygraph, psych exam, medical exam.

At the end of the day the offer was extended to Mooney.

“Her ability to have the passion to be with the students, with all groups of students, to have that priority to mentor and outreach is something that put her over the edge,”

Mooney was sworn in on June first of this year, as many watched; she took the stand to replace Mark DeLieto who retired this year.

After attending Keene State College for a Bachelor degree in History, with a minor in Art History from Keene State, she got a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice from our very own U.N.H.

Mooney attended classes like any regular student, to pursue her masters in Criminal Justice.

“I wanted to get my degree in Criminal Justice as I was already lieutenant at Milford, I think it goes without saying that U.N.H. goes hand and hand with that educational process.”

She was also familiar with the U.N.H. community due to the fact that she was in charge of the police internships at Milford, but she grew fond of the U.N.H. students and faculty.

“I was very impressed with the students, and I worked a little with the faculty with police work, so it just seemed like the right fit.”

Mooney, who worked previously in Milford as the Police Chief, came out of retirement to join our U.N.H. community.  

“The one position I knew if it became available that would pull me out of my retirement from policing was this, and so I retained my certification for two years after I retired, I retired at the end of 2014.  So I was actually on vacation and a friend of mine texted me saying, U.N.H. police chief is posted. I was like oh boy, this may be life changing, and so I applied for the job and I got an interview and here I sit,” said Mooney with a proud and happy smile on her face.

Mooney started her process of becoming a police officer at the age of 28. She joined the Milford police department in 1994 and is now a 21-year veteran of the department.  She joined the force because of her father, who was a firefighter and she grew up with shift work, public service life and grew to love it.

“Once an opportunity became available and I thought I was mature enough, because I think maturity is a big part of this position and profession. I started the processes because there is so much work that goes into it, it is incredibly for filling profession,” said Mooney.

In 1997, Mooney was chosen by the departments police chief to represent Milford as both an undercover and investigative officer at the South Central Office of the Statewide Narcotics Task Force, which she stayed with for three and a half years, saying it was a very rewarding part of her career. She worked with police officers from all over the state, being undercover and writing search and arrest warrants. In this time she also did 10 or 11 wiretaps.

During those three and a half years, she received two Unit Citations; one for the seizure of several kilos of cocaine, and the other was for her undercover work in a large-scale drug investigation.

When she returned to the Patrol Division in 2000 she worked hard and had to overcome the challenges of going from undercover narcotics work, back to the patrol duty.

“It was a transition period for sure, I was coming from strictly narcotics investigation were you are in plain clothes and driving regular cars, it really is a cool aspect of policing. And you’re coming back into a patrol unit; you’re back in uniform back to dealing with perhaps mundane police calls. So you just have to transition back into the patrol mentality,” Mooney said.

Then in 2002 she was promoted to sergeant and again in 2004 when she was promoted to lieutenant.

Mooney was then promoted again in 2007 to Administrative Captain, which included her heading the International Affairs Unit, which made her the Freedom of Information Officer. Being Administrative Captain also gave her other responsibilities such as, overseeing the Records and Traffic Divisions, coordinating the hiring of employees, as well as participating in and supervising the Recruitment Team.

In 2011, Mooney attended and graduated from the 246th Session of the FBI National Academy, Mooney states it was the best experience of her career. For 10 weeks in Quantico, VA, on the FBI academy grounds, she attended classes for master courses and physical fitness tests. The program expands to 250 police executives, (Lieutenants or higher) from all over the world, it is very hard to get into and Mooney’s Chief handpicked her for the Milford Department’s Chair, which comes around once every five years.

She was hand picked by the then Police Chief Keith Mello. Mello had recommend Mooney for the position of Deputy Chief after the retirement of former Deputy Chief Steven Fournier, who now is the assistant to Mayor Ben Blake.

In 2012, Mooney was sworn in as Milford’s Police Department’s second- highest-ranking officer. Making her the highest-ranking female in the department’s history after being promoted from Captain to Deputy Chief in 2011 making her second in command for overseeing operational functions.

The University of New Haven prides itself on being one of the top schools for Criminal Justices, with that being said, many students strive in the competitive department. Mooney, not only being a veteran of the police force in many different areas but also a student of the University of New Haven, has first hand witnessed the students and them fulfilling their aspirations of studying Criminal Justice at this school.

Nick Mroczka, a student of the university, also works at Campus Police as a student patrol officer. He has meet Mooney on several occasions.

“As an outsider, new to the university, Chief Mooney has brought a fresh new attitude and energy to the department. She is actively working on finding new ways to engage the officers in new duties and responsibilities on campus. I think she is doing a fine job at motivating the officers to better represent the university and its values,” Mroczka said.

There is no wonder why so many students look up to the school’s new police chief as their living breathing role model. Mooney had a few inspiring words on this topic:

“I know that as a woman executive in policing that I serve as a mentor and a role model to people and that is very important. So what has served me well to learn to move up in the ranks is, learn your craft, I think police officers need to continue to be students of the criminal justice system, they can’t just pigeonhole themselves. They have got to know what is going on globally, what the issues are in law enforcement, because they have to honestly address them with their clientele.”

She also gave a few words of advice for those students:

“Be good to people, care about the people you are supervising. Communication skills are huge, as well as it takes courage to lead, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable to serve people, but if it makes them better then that is what my role is.”

Mooney, being a long time skilled police officer, touched base on the up and coming police brutality issues that have been going on around the country. People now a days feel as though they have to pick sides and have to choose between what they think is morally right and what they see happening. U.N.H. has recently gone under the microscope with the article published on the Sheriff David Clarke incident. Mooney states that although this campus is small, this campus is apart of the world and that it is not shielded from opinions of the outside world.

“This campus is a microcosm of society, it is unfortunate what is happening in the United States. But we as police officers have a job to do and the best I can do is lead the people of this department and make sure they are judicious in their enforcement of the law. That they follow policy’s and procedures and that they understand the issues as well and understand other peoples opinions as we expect people to respect ours,” says Mooney.

Police work is obviously not easy, and as students we take full advantage of being surrounded by police 24/7. The world is not like this, and Mooney aims to make our safety top priority.

“Keeping kids safe is our main mission. Can we get better? We can always get better at something,” she says.

As Mooney is concerned with safety and regulations, she is also still a human on this campus and is still adjusting to our community. She herself still has challenges to overcome and she welcomes them gladly and plans for the future of this campus.

“My greatest challenge is to unify the vision of the renowned criminal justice program at U.N.H. With the mission of this police department, I’d like to see the police department more involved in programming, classroom talks, perhaps, presentations, in the university setting. We have hundreds of years of criminal justice experience in this building alone and I would like to see the university tap into that.”

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UNH Welcomes Its First Ever Women Police Chief