Schoenle a leader among SUNY police
“I love public service, I like working with people and I like the flexibility of the career.”
Since joining University Police as chief in July 2006, Jerry Schoenle has brought a level of professionalism to UB that has inspired improvements in his own and other SUNY departments.
Among his accomplishments: leading University Police through a successful bid in 2007 to become the first SUNY police department to earn accreditation from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Schoenle credits the men and women of University Police with pushing for and embracing change. During the process, he worked with fellow officers to develop 80 new policies and procedures, post those written rules on the unit’s intranet and institute a system that enables officers to disseminate emergency warnings on the Web and via e-mail.
Energized by Schoenle and University Police, police at other SUNY institutions are now pursuing accreditation, too.
“What really got us rolling was Jerry,” says Steven Dangler, chief of SUNY Cortland’s police department, which is now in the final phase of the state accreditation process. “Accreditation helps make you more professional and it assists the officers by making regulations and policies available at their fingertips. Not only did Jerry inspire us, he helped us in really getting through it. If we have any questions, he’s more than willing to answer them.”
“Jerry has been a leader, a starter in accreditation efforts within SUNY,” says Bart Ingersoll, president of the SUNY Police Chiefs Association and chief of police at SUNY College at Oneonta. “Jerry has been a breath of fresh air breathed into this organization with his vision and leadership.”
Schoenle, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice, began his career in public service as an aircraft maintenance specialist in the Air Force in the 1970s. He jokes that he has worn a uniform since he was 18.
A native of Buffalo and surrounding suburbs, Schoenle served with the Buffalo Police Department from 1980 to 2000, rising from patrolman to captain of communications and administration. His duties over the years included conducting preliminary investigations of alleged crimes, supervising patrol officers and patrol supervisors, leading hostage-negotiation and dignitary-protection teams, and managing technology projects, including placing computers in every police car.
Following his two-decade stint with Buffalo Police, Schoenle served for five years as director of public safety training for Erie County Central Police Services, and for one year as assistant chief of police in Arlington, Tex. UB named him chief after conducting a national search that attracted many highly qualified candidates.
“I’ve had so many law enforcement jobs,” Schoenle says. “I love public service, I like working with people and I like the flexibility of the career. It’s wide open. I’ve had so many different opportunities and so much excellent training. I went to the FBI national academy, a three-month program for law enforcement managers. You never go stagnant in the field. I feel I’ve had a progressively successful career.”
Besides initiating and providing leadership during accreditation, Schoenle has overseen an array of day-to-day changes that are helping to keep students and other members of the university community safer.
On Schoenle’s watch, the department has instituted a joint bike detail with the Buffalo Police Department, with two officers from each department patrolling Main Street near the South Campus on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The patrols begin at the start of the fall semester, run through late October and then resume again when the weather begins to warm.
University Police also has partnered with University Facilities to install new lights, emergency phones and security cameras on the South Campus. The North Campus is undergoing similar improvements.
When Schoenle and fellow officers noticed a rash of on-campus car break-ins, they stepped up patrols, caught some thieves and started distributing vehicle “report cards,” assigning “fail” grades to drivers who left navigation devices, iPods, laptops or other expensive items in unattended vehicles. The purpose of the operation was to educate faculty, staff and students about how they could protect themselves. Schoenle says the rash of break-ins ended shortly after the department implemented its problem-solving measures.
And Schoenle and the department are not done yet. Next up for University Police: national accreditation. Only a fraction of law enforcement units achieve state accreditation, and national accreditation is even rarer. But that distinction is one Schoenle believes is worth pursuing. He notes that in a report following the Virginia Tech massacre, the National Association of Attorneys General recommended accreditation as one measure that could help school public safety departments keep campuses safe.
“It makes you that much better of a police department,” Schoenle says. “We constantly strive to improve ourselves, which means we’re holding ourselves to a higher standard than some of our peer institutions. Meeting the highest standards and adopting best practices help us prepare for emergencies and provide quality policing on a daily basis.”