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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Meet ECPD’s new Interim Chief: Robert Casagrande

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Former ECPD Deputy Chief Robert Casagrande has assumed the role of interim chief following the retirement of Chief Robert Smith.

After the June announcement of Emerson College Police Chief Robert Smith’s retirement after 11 years of service, former Deputy Chief Robert Casagrande has assumed the role of interim chief. Before coming to Emerson, Robert Casagrande worked as a police sergeant in Hull, Massachusetts.

“It’s a tiny seaside peninsula south of Boston down by Hingham and Cohasset,” Casagrande said. “My last 18 years, I was the midnight shift sergeant and supervisor, and after doing 26 years there, I decided it was time to retire and come to the college.” 

Casagrande became the interim chief on June 11 after having served the Emerson community since January 2020, starting as a patrolman. Given his prior experience in the town of Hull, the department promoted him to lieutenant in July 2020. After applying for the position of deputy chief, he was promoted in October 2021. Though his current role is an interim position, he hopes to stay with the department in the long run and become the permanent chief.

“I plan on staying here,” he said. “I’m young, I’m only 52 and I plan on working into my 60s, so hopefully another 10 years.”

Casagrande has several goals for the department, the primary of which being to restore the department back up to full staffing levels. This has been an ongoing issue ever since the state passed a police reform bill that shut down several part time reserve intermittent academies—which is where most colleges and universities sent their officers for training.

 “Now that those academies don’t exist anymore, we have to send our officers to a full-time academy.” Casagrande said. “It’s actually an epidemic throughout law enforcement because of the shortage of candidates. A lot of people just don’t want to do the job.”

Casagrande also plans to bring back several programs to strengthen community ties and trust, as well as have ECPD collaborate with student activities.

“We are already hiring more staff so we can do more programs,” Casagrande said. “Currently, we are working on reforming a self-defense program for the students.”

This self-defense program was discontinued when the college shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We are going to start looking for officers who would be interested in helping out with the program and we are hoping to offer at least one class by the end of the semester,” Casagrande said. 

In addition to self-defense classes, Casagrande also plans to get the department involved with CPR courses alongside the course’s sponsor, Allen Bowers, director of treasury services and risk management for the Emerson finance department.

 “They’ve partnered with private vendors like Brigham and Women’s Hospital,” Casagrande said. “When there are enough students for a class, they will host it here at the ECPD.”

The interim chief plans to continue maintaining the department’s positive working relationship with Housing and Residential Education (HRE) when it comes to jointly handling incidents on campus.

“We’ll do an incident report, and if the situation requires us to pursue charges, we will,” Casagrande said. “If not, we provide the report and go to student conduct, and HRE will handle it from there.”

The interim chief said it’s an “honor” to take on this position. 

“I want the students to know that the ECPD considers itself part of the learning process,” Casagrande said. “I went to college and have a son attending a college currently, so I know what students are going to do. We’re not here to punish the students, we’re here to help them get through it.”

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