From Backpacks to Badges: Alums Thrive as UConn Police Officers

From left to right, Chief Hans D. Rhynhart ’93 and ’18; Officer Alex Rodriguez ’14; Sgt. Peter Harris ’03; Sgt. Justin Cheney ’07; Sgt. Marc Hanna ’88; Lt. Matthew C. Zadrowski ’07; Officer Tyler Hopson ’13; Lt. Darren Cook ’94; Sgt. Mark Bouthillier ’07; Deputy Chief Andrew Fournier ’95 ’01; Lt. Justin Gilbert ’06. UConn grads not pictured: Officer Robin Kiddy; Sgt. Zachary Ladyga; Officer Joseph Conetta. (Submitted Photo)
From left to right, Chief Hans D. Rhynhart ’93 and ’18; Officer Alex Rodriguez ’14; Sgt. Peter Harris ’03; Sgt. Justin Cheney ’07; Sgt. Marc Hanna ’88; Lt. Matthew C. Zadrowski ’07; Officer Tyler Hopson ’13; Lt. Darren Cook ’94; Sgt. Mark Bouthillier ’07; Deputy Chief Andrew Fournier ’95 ’01; Lt. Justin Gilbert ’06. UConn grads not pictured: Officer Robin Kiddy; Sgt. Zachary Ladyga; Officer Joseph Conetta. (Submitted Photo)

Obviously, knowing your way around UConn’s campuses is a must for all of its police officers.

But more than a dozen of them have an edge: They’re also UConn alumni, whose experiences on its campuses were so rewarding that they decided to build their careers working in the University community.

With recruitment currently under way for its next class of new police officers, the UConn Police Department comprises a blend of alums and non-alums from all walks of life among its 103 sworn personnel.

Although hiring so many UConn alumni wasn’t done by design, the serendipity has greatly benefitted the University and, by extension, the students, employees, and visitors to its seven campuses statewide.

It’s not just a matter of knowing the geography and how to navigate between buildings, the officers say. They also start the job knowing the campus culture and its recent history, and can relate to the experiences its students and others face every day.

Matthew C. Zadrowski had recently graduated and given up his UConn Marching Band uniform in 2007 when he entered the police academy as a UConn recruit, donning his new patrol officer uniform in 2008. He’s steadily worked his way up to his current rank of lieutenant.

“It helped that I already knew the campus and had a good sense of the community’s values and its needs,” said Zadrowski ’07 (CLAS), who lived in the Towers Quadrangles and Busby Suites residence communities during his time as an undergraduate.

Zadrowski is among 14 sworn UConn officers with one or more degrees from UConn. They hold positions throughout all ranks and all the way to the top, where Chief of Police and Associate Vice President of Public Safety Hans Rhynhart ’93 (CAHNR), ’18 (BUS) is also a proud Husky alum.

In addition to Storrs, UConn Police also has officers at the UConn Health campus in Farmington; the UConn regional campuses in Hartford, Stamford, Waterbury, and Avery Point; and at the School of Law in Hartford.

UConn was served for decades by a team of security officers before the UConn Police Department was established by state law on April 28, 1972. Once located in an old farm house at 1501 Storrs Road, it moved in February 1992 to its current location at 126 N. Eagleville Road, which it shares with the UConn Fire Department under the umbrella of the UConn Division of Public Safety.

Applications are being taken until Oct. 3 for its newest class of police officer recruits, with the goal of having them enrolled in the Connecticut Police Academy in December for training and certification.

UConn Police anticipate filling nine vacant position this round, based on upcoming retirements and the cascade effect as other officers move to new positions and ranks.

“When we recruit, we look for people from all walks of life and backgrounds,” says Deputy Chief Andrew Fournier ’95, ’01 (CLAS). Applicants do not need to be UConn graduates to be hired or to compete for promotions, he emphasized.

“We’ve found that having a blend of people with life experiences both here and elsewhere has helped us create a well-rounded workforce,” he said. “UConn is an exceptional state agency to work in, whether you attended this University or not.”

UConn Police Lt. Justin Gilbert ’06 (CAHNR), who’s currently a fellow in UConn’s Masters of Public Administration program, was a commuter during his undergraduate college career, and says he draws valuable perspective from his time as a student.

“There’s a sense of community here, and a need for a certain level of compassion and personal service in this kind of position,” Gilbert said. “We understand that people are entrusting us with their most precious commodity, their children, and that there are high expectations. We take that very seriously and it’s important to us.”

The UConn Police Department is accepting applications through Oct. 3, 2019 from entry-level officer candidates and others who already hold the necessary certifications. Job requirements, minimum qualifications, and other details can be found at publicsafety.uconn.edu/police