It’s a Shared Mission for NOVA’s Police Chief

Dan Dusseau credits his officers and a supportive administration at Northern Virginia Community College for his being named Higher Education Campus Safety Director of the Year.

As a twin, Dan Dusseau has been sharing things, well, since he was born. That’s why it is no surprise the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) chief of police wants to make sure it is clear to everyone that he didn’t earn the Campus Safety Director of the Year honor all by himself.

“The chief creates the vision,” says Dusseau, “but it is the officers and staff who operationalize and do the heavy lifting. Without them, the chief is nothing.”

One of his lieutenants, John Weinstein, nominated the chief for the award and says he knew how the chief would react.

“He said I was making him look too good and [his success] was because of the people in the department,” says Weinstein.

Dusseau also attributes much of his success to the support he receives from NOVA’s administration. When he arrived at NOVA in 2010, college leaders were looking for new ideas and changes to make NOVA’s six campuses safer in the aftermath of a serious security incident in 2009.

RELATED: Check out photos of Dusseau and his department.

NOVA is one of the five largest community colleges in the United States and is the largest academic institution in Virginia.  Its six campuses, located in the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus, or MEC) and Woodbridge, plus educational centers in Arlington, Reston, Fort Belvoir, Quantico and Manassas’ Innovation Park serve almost 80,000 students and 4,300 faculty and staff from over 180 different countries. 

“Providing professional police services to what amounts to a small city, with 258 teaching sites distributed over several hundred square miles is quite the challenge”, notes Dusseau.

Being located in the Washington, D.C., area, the college is no stranger to the national political scene. It hosted two visits from President Barack Obama in 2012, members of Congress,  theCommonwealth’s Governor, and a host of other national and state officials.  Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, is an instructor at one of the campuses so the college police interact regularly with the U.S. Secret Service. The college’s police force also provided police security at the inauguration of President Obama, and provided security and police services at the national fireworks display on July 4, 2013.

NOVA Makes Big Changes After Campus Shooting
Those factors make the job of police chief of NOVA quite unusual, but what prompted the biggest changes on the campus was dealing with a shooting at the Woodbridge campus. On Dec. 8, 2009, a 20-year-old student entered a classroom and fired two shots, missing his math teacher, before calmly sitting down and waiting for the police to arrive and arrest him.

After that incident, campus officials took steps to increase safety on all of the campuses. That included bringing in Dusseau, who was retiring from the Prince Georges County Md., police force as a major. He says the college worked hard to increase its security and put training in place for the staff and for its students before his arrival.

The school didn’t just look at what caused the 2009 shooting. Instead, college leadership seized it as an opportunity to look at all of their safety procedures and training. Dusseau was hired to implement his ideas, and the college supported his plans to hire additional officers and improve the department’s training and equipment.
Dusseau Listens to Input and Praises Others
Dusseau’s willingness to deflect all praise away from himself and point it toward the college doesn’t come as a surprise to those who know and work with him.

“Dan is quiet, but a true professional,” says Dr. Robert Templin Jr., president of NOVA. “He has the knack of making people understand the link between a safe and secure campus and the achievement of its academic mission.  People have great respect for him and trust his judgment.” 

It’s his professional style to ask and gather thoughts before making a decision or taking an action.

“He listens to other people and solicits different opinions,” says William Flagler, NOVA’s director of emergency management. “[Dusseau] is a very participatory leader. He has discussions and debates, builds consensus and shares credit with his colleagues.  He is the consummate team player.”

Department Centralization Enables Identification of Trends
One of Dusseau’s first tasks was to centralize the department. Before that, the business managers at the six campuses controlled police operations and gathered all of the individual reports.  Furthermore, there were no real-time communications between the police on the different campuses.  As a result, the department operated more like six agencies than one. The chief developed a centralized program to establish unity of command and have all reports funneled into his office through the police chain of command. 

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