‘I see my kids in our students’

Stanley Valles stands in front of a cruiser on Sept. 6, 2021.

By Ashley DeLeon – Executive Editor

Stanley Valles, 52, takes a nighttime stroll in the Townhouse 100s wearing white Crocs and a Nike sweatshirt. Seconds after closing the door to his new home on campus, he is greeted by a student who noticed a radio in his hand.

“Are you the new Public Safety director,” the student asks.“Yes, I’m Stan. How are you,” Valles responds. 

He shakes hands with the student – who happens to be his new neighbor – and engages in a conversation about interests, hobbies and hometowns. 

“I don’t consider myself any different from the students I’m here to serve,” Valles said in an interview.

Like many students living on campus, Valles is hours away from home. 

His family currently lives in the Township of Livingston, New Jersey, where Valles served as the first African American police officer in 1995. 

With over 25 years of experience in law enforcement, he has worked for the New Jersey Transit Police Department, New Hampshire Department of Corrections, Livingston Police Department and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey.

In 2017, he served as the first director of Campus Safety and Emergency Management at Marlboro College.

“Family means everything to me, and it should to everyone” 

Valles was born in Brooklyn, New York and lived in a four-family house with his relatives throughout his childhood. He shared a bedroom with his two cousins and brothers. 

“If you wanted something to drink, you’d go upstairs to your grandmother’s house. You’d go down in the basement where your uncle lived to grab a t-shirt, or go on the second floor to do homework with your cousins. It was a great way to grow up…,” he said.

Valles’ humble beginnings taught him the importance of gratitude.

“From my grandmother living in Jacmel, Haiti with dirt floors, no plumbing and having an outhouse, to actually having what she had now, made us appreciate it even more,” he said.

He and his family eventually moved to Connecticut, where he was met with an immediate culture shock.

“I went from living in a predominantly Black area in Brooklyn to living in Connecticut where it wasn’t as diverse,” he said.

After his parents divorced, Valles moved to Newark, New Jersey and attended Kean University where he graduated with a Bachelor’s in English. Afterwards, he enrolled in the Middlesex Police Academy. 

While in the police academy, he learned a jarring piece of family information – his grandmother couldn’t read or write. 

“She really valued the importance of education, so that’s why she pushed me. Coming from Haiti, she understood that people are often judged by the color of their skin, and content of their character,” Valles said.

He later married his wife, Katie, but never expected to marry outside his race, he said. Though his late mother always wanted him to marry a Haitian woman, she liked Katie and embraced her fully. 

Unfortunately, his father and other family members did not attend their wedding because he married outside his race.

“My father did not come to my wedding, nor did he meet my children. There were some people that didn’t come to our wedding because of our race, and that’s an obstacle we [had to] cross,” Valles said.

He and his wife have two college-aged children, Max and Olivia.

Olivia shares the same birthday as Valles’ mother, and Max has the same birthday as his father.

“Olivia drives a little Subaru, has a boyfriend and is very cookie-cutter. My son is the exact opposite. He has a recording studio in the garage and had rolling papers in his laundry,” he said. 

“I see a lot of the students in my kids,” he said.

Community policing and harm reduction

“If we’re going to work towards a demilitarized justice system of policing, community policing is the only way to do it,” said Margaret Bass, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion.

When Valles started working at St. Michael’s College in early August, he planned to immediately implement community policing practices at the institution.

Community policing is an enforcement strategy that focuses on developing relationships with people in a community. The concept of community policing gained media traction after the death of George Floyd in May 2020.

“Rather than responding to crime only after it occurs, community policing encourages agencies to proactively develop solutions to the immediate underlying conditions contributing to public safety problems,” according to a community policing guide from the Department of Justice.

“[For example], I saw somebody who was attempting to hang on to the back of a pickup truck on his skateboard. And I was with an officer. Instead of going lights and sirens to the person, we just pulled up and had a conversation,” Valles said.

Part of community policing involves positive partnerships among officers and leadership, he explained. 

Valles said he regularly meets with officers and dispatchers one-on-one to learn more about his colleagues.

“I would come in on a Saturday or Sunday, and sit with the dispatcher for a few minutes… or with an officer on a Sunday and ask them what their day was like,” he said. 

Valles said he wants to see an increase in positive interactions between students and officers.

“I’d like to see officers interact with students more, like eating in the dining hall together or going to the library,” he said.

Logan Hailey ‘23 expressed his hopes to see more respectful interactions between officers and students. 

“Last year, I felt like they were very suffocating with their constant patrolling and suspicion,” he said.

Hailey was interviewed for a Defender story last spring, where he shared his experience receiving over $800 in fines for both marijuana and disrespect during the height of tensions between students and officers. 

“I feel like their priority should be protecting students in unsafe situations like sexual assault rather than busting a couple students smoking pot,” he said. Considering the difficult year students experienced due to COVID-19 restrictions, Hailey hopes that officers can allow students to “hang loose” and relax. 

Representation matters

“​​I don’t know if I’m the first African American to hold this position at St. Michael’s or if they even keep track. But, it does make you wonder what people think of you, how they judge you and how they look at you,” Valles said.

It can be difficult to avoid this mode of thinking when little to no racial diversity is present in meetings, he explained.

For the BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] community on campus, representation in Public Safety leadership can hold significant meaning.

“It is about time we start having BIPOC people in positions of power. It is the season in our millennium where we start making changes to our leaders and those who are in positions of power,” said Kelechi Onuoha ‘23, community engagement secretary for the Student Government Association. 

Onuoha expressed optimism for the future of Public Safety reform at the College, and hopes that changes this year are powerful.

Optimism and hope for the future of Public Safety

“I look forward to watching [Valles] build connections and become part of what makes St. Mike’s the special community that I have grown to love and respect,” said Doug Babcock, adjunct professor and former director of public safety. 

Babcock, who currently works for public safety at Dartmouth College, knew Valles several years ago when he worked at Marlboro. 

“He is a calm and thoughtful leader with an extensive background in public safety and a commitment to community engagement,” Babcock said.

Fr. Marcel Rainville ’67 met Valles at an Edmundite dinner a few weeks ago, he said. 

“There were the regular seven Nicolle Hall Edmundite residents at dinner that evening, along with five other Edmundites who reside at Fort Ethan Allen.  Stan arrived as we were beginning dinner, and so Fr. Brian kind of ‘took him under his wing,’ sitting with him and other Edmundites at that second table,” Rainville said. 

He said that Valles left a good impression that night.

“Stan left a good impression on me as a serious yet very friendly person who would seem to be a fine fit for the new position he has assumed on our campus,” Rainville said. 

Adjunct Professor Kayla Loving discussed her appreciation for Valles’ dedication to the College community. 

“I met Stanley Valles and appreciated his commitment to learning from and building relationships with the community,” she said.

Students have already expressed their optimism for the future of Public Safety under Valles’ leadership.

“I think he’ll probably keep some of the aspects of Doug’s time that I might say are good. But I think he’s also going to make an effort to change the things from previous eras that were not so good,” said Lily Denslow ‘22, secretary of academics for the Student Government Association.

Denslow noted the importance of positive relationships between students and Public Safety and its impact on academic performance.

“College is one of the only times in life where one institution controls every aspect of your life, from financial stability… to what you eat if you’re on a meal plan. We need to understand the impact that Public Safety can have on a student’s academic performance,” she said.

Eliza Masteller ‘23, who met Valles in a criminology class taught by Babcock, briefly described her positive interaction with the new director of Public Safety.

“As students exited the classroom, he asked for our names, how we were and how he hoped to see us on campus. I am hopeful that Stan can continue to take Public Safety into a positive direction and pick up where Doug left off,” Masteller said.