Public Safety welcomes new director

Get to know the new head of the Department

Dakota Thomas | News Editor |

Jeff Favreau, the new Director of Public Safety, in his office after beginning the role OCt. 17. Photo by Minqi Kong.

As high schoolers often do, Jeff Favreau pondered about potential career paths. Growing up and going to school in Cape Cod, he found himself inspired by Officer Nick, the Student Resource Officer (SRO) he saw everyday in his high school. When Favreau entered college at Westfield State University and joined the student safety team in the early 2000s, he experienced a different side of Public Safety.

“You drive the van around. If they had somebody go to detox from the college… then one of the student security officers would have to go sit, and just watch the person sleep in their jail. It was really glamorous,” he said sarcastically. 

 After graduating college in 2004,  Favreau started at South Burlington Police Department where he worked for 13 years. In 2017, he left for a position with the University of Vermont Police Force, where he worked until he joined the St. Michael’s community. 

  “I thought Doug [former director]  was still here, and I just happened to see the job posting,” Favreau said. He then applied for the position and was hired to begin as the director of Public Safety on Oct. 17.

  Favreau has been warmly welcomed from faculty and staff. “Everybody at the college has been really great. They did an announcement, a staff newsletter, and I got so many emails from people. I just never had this experience before. It was great,” Favreau said. He added that the small college atmosphere, especially after working at the University of Vermont, has allowed him to cultivate individual connections.  

  “It’s the connecting with people that’s always kind of kept me in the role as a police officer. So, not being a sworn police officer anymore, and just being over in the public safety world, that doesn’t bother me,” he said.

 During his time at South Burlington Police, he got an opportunity to work at Tuttle Middle School and Rice High School as a Student Resource Officer (SRO). He grew a deep appreciation for connecting with students and creating meaningful relationships with the community. “Out being a police officer, it’s going from call to call to call. You don’t really have any control over what you do, and you’re just dealing with people in crisis all the time,” Favreau said. When the SRO position ended, he moved toward other positions in community policing within higher education. 

 “Each person who’s in this position brings something different that can be appreciated,” said Dawn Ellinwood, vice president for student affairs. Ellinwood ultimately hires the director of Public Safety, she expressed that Favreau had the package of higher education experience working with high school and college students, coupled with professional development with officers. 

 Stan Valles, former director of Public Safety, held the position from August 2021 until this past spring. Ellinwood stated there were a number of determinants that imposed challenges during his time at the College, which ultimately led him to resign and accept another career opportunity.  “Unexpectedly, the highly coveted opportunity to affect change within the marginalized community where I spent my formative years presented itself. At the end of the day there is no place like home, but I would be remiss if I did not say that there is no place like St. Mike’s… I still wear purple on Fridays as St. Mikes is my home away from home,” Valles said.

  Ellinwood said that when the committee evaluated each candidate, Favreau’s experience was raised as a potential asset to the community. Not just his policing experience on a supervisory level, but also his experience at higher education institutions such as the University of Vermont. His time as a student resource officer is what ultimately made him stand out as a highly qualified candidate for St. Michael’s. 

  Lizveidy (Brigitte) Hernandez ‘23 discussed the questions that her and other students asked the final candidates at a community forum. They inquired about his plans to interact with students.  “Mostly in the past, or even now, Public Safety doesn’t have that relationship with the students, it almost seems like pub safety wants to get students in trouble,” Hernandez said.

  Favreau has an open door policy for his staff as well as the rest of the community. A part of his personal policing philosophy is meeting everyone from a place of empathy.

“How can I help you get through this problem,” has been a cornerstone of Favreau’s policing strategy, he said. Favreau also highlighted the importance of de-escalation. “I think de-escalation is like one of the most important trainings you can have as a public safety officer, police officer, whatever. The ability to be able to talk to people and deescalate a situation is better training,” he said.

Hernandez mentioned that there is a hesitancy on the part of students to approach public safety in crises out of fear of consequences. “[Students] would rather make sure there is a friend that is sober enough to take care of them, than to call pub safety,” Hernandez said.

“If people are sending out a LiveSafe, noise complaints or whatever, and they feel like Public Safety isn’t responding to that appropriately or in a timely fashion or at all, these are things I need to know about,” Favreau said. “I want people to feel like they can report stuff to us. And if somebody’s in trouble, or if something has gone wrong, don’t wait. Report it so we can help you. And I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable about doing that. So if they do feel uncomfortable, then that’s something that we can try and work out.”

When talking about the current relationship between Public Safety and students, Favreau stated that while they were good, they always can be improved upon. “The relationships are definitely there, we just need to continue that forward momentum.”

“I like to get a lot of different perspectives before I decide on what the best path forward is,” Favreau said. He values input from all parties – public safety officers, staff, faculty, and students. Favreau is actively working with an intern on conducting a survey to evaluate campus needs from Public Safety.

 Doug Babcock, adjunct professor and former director of Public Safety, echoed the importance of listening. “It’s listening. It’s establishing respect, which goes both ways. And I think that remembering that education on a college campus, a residential college campus, happens outside of the classroom 66% of the time. 33% is in the classroom. We are part of the education process,” Babcock said.

 Valles said that he is confident in Favreau’s ability to be an effective leader in Public Safety. “I wish the new Director nothing but the very best. Without a doubt, he is certainly a well respected expert in the field of Public Safety. However, it is equally important to state that he has a great deal of emotional intelligence and will treat everyone with compassion. I think he is an excellent fit….I wish I had the opportunity to work with him.”