Fitchburg State U Appoints 1st Female Police Chief

FITCHBURG, Mass. – Fitchburg State University has appointed its first female chief of its campus police force.

Karen J. Leary, who has served as deputy chief of police and deputy director of public safety at Simmons College since July 2011, was selected after a lengthy search by a committee that included representatives from the university and the Fitchburg Police Department.

“I am looking forward to bringing my public safety philosophy to Fitchburg State University,” Leary said. “I welcome this opportunity to work with a talented professional police organization and an administration that believes in collaboration and community engagement.”

Prior to working at Simmons, Leary spent nine years at Massachusetts General Hospital, during which she was an investigative supervisor and later senior manager of investigations. She also worked nearly two years as an investigator with the state Office of the Attorney General in Boston. Her professional experience also includes teaching at the high school and college level.

As a law enforcement officer, Leary received the prestigious George L. Hanna Award for Bravery from the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety, among other laurels.

Leary completed a Master of Science in forensic science from the University of New Haven and a bachelor of science in criminal justice from Westfield State University. She has an associate of science degree in business administration from Holyoke Community College.

Leary will assume her new duties on April 14. She succeeds James Hamel, who retired in December after 40 years with the campus police force. The department has since been managed by Lt. Benjamin McDonald, who took over as acting chief following the death of Lt. Michael Marcil.

“Karen Leary brings rich and varied experience in public safety and emergency preparedness to this role and I am confident she will be a vital and productive contribution to the team at Fitchburg State,” President Antonucci said. “She understands the evolving role of campus police in university life and is ideally suited to bring our department to the next level.”

The Fitchburg State University Campus Police Department includes a chief, two lieutenants, one sergeant, 13 police officers, three full-time dispatchers and a reserve officer. The department operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year. Its officers are fully trained, licensed, and armed as special state police officers under Massachusetts General Law. Officers possess full police powers and are responsible for the prevention of crime, the detection and apprehension of offenders, the preservation of public peace, and the enforcement of all criminal laws and state statutes as well as compliance with the policies and regulations of the university.

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