By Ed Brennen
When Sgt. Michael Soucy joined the UMass Lowell Police Department
in 2008, the force consisted of just eight patrol officers headquartered at Ball Hall. The department had one four-wheel-drive vehicle to get through the snowy winters.
“The police department was a very different place back then,” Soucy recalls. As a 20-year veteran of the police department in Nashua, N.H., Soucy soon missed the structure and cohesiveness of that job, and by early 2010, he was planning his exit from UML.
But that April, the university hired Randolph Brashears
as its new chief of police. Brashears asked Soucy to stick around for six months to see if things improved.
“I’m grateful that I put my trust in Chief Brashears and decided to stay in 2010. I was part of this transformation of the UMass Lowell Police Department,” says Soucy, who was recently recognized by the Massachusetts Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (MACLEA) with the Sean Collier Award for Innovations in Community Oriented Policing — an honor named after the late Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer who was killed during the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects in 2013.
Soucy and several other members of the UMLPD were recognized at the department’s inaugural staff appreciation breakfast at Alumni Hall. Held on the heels of National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day on Jan. 9, the event celebrated the department’s growth over the past decade and the successful strides it has made as part of the university’s 2020 Strategic Plan
“Our newer officers have no concept of what it was like in the old days, so we wanted to give them a glimpse of the past so that they might better appreciate the present,” says Brashears, who today oversees 36 sworn officers and eight dispatchers headquartered at University Crossing (where the fleet of four-wheel-drive vehicles is now up to eight).
Soucy, who is retiring this year along with Sgt. Rick St. Onge and Officer Kurt Gautier, received the Collier Award for his work as supervisor of the Campus Resource Officer Program. In that role, he is responsible for community policing efforts such as working with neighborhood groups and off-campus property managers, hosting the national “Coffee with a Cop” program and promoting the student bicycle registration program. Soucy was also recognized for stepping in to help a family whose autistic child was not responding well to the large crowd and noise at a Harlem Globetrotters game last year at the Tsongas Center.
“Community policing is a department-wide program, and I have to first and foremost thank the people who do it every day, Officers Jeff Connors and Bill Emmons,” says Soucy, who donated his Collier Award to a new display that Deputy Chief Ron Dickerson is establishing at UMLPD headquarters to promote the department’s history.
Officers Ryan Cassidy and Ted Dillon also received “Special Recognition for Outstanding Effort in Response” from MACLEA for their work in safely defusing a dispute between two individuals during an off-campus incident last summer.
Officer Ian Berkeley, Lt. Scott Childs and Det. Joe Molinari were also nominated by Brashears for MACLEA awards and received the university’s Chief Award for Investigations.
Robert Kelleher was sworn in as a sergeant at the breakfast, which included an invocation and benediction from police chaplain Frederick Williams.
Speaking at the breakfast on behalf of the UML administration, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and University Events Larry Siegel shared his perspective on the growth of the department, which fell under his watch when he joined the university in 1986.
“Other than a uniform that’s blue, there is probably no comparison to the police department here now and the police department that was here more than 30 years ago,” says Siegel, who attributes much of the change to the hiring of veteran officers like Soucy and Dickerson starting in 2008.
“You are one of the greatest prides of this university,” Siegel told the UMLPD members. “From the chancellor on down, we can’t thank you enough. You are taking care of our students every single second of every single day.”
Brashears deflected credit for the department’s growth, instead thanking everyone from administrators and staff, to the Lowell community, the university’s contracted security firm Securitas and the UMLPD officers themselves.
“The police department has come a long way in the last 10 years,” he says. “But it’s because of the quality of the people that we have hired that has made the difference.”