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State Police Veteran Made New CP Chief

By Harold Fox

Following a nationwide search, MIT has named Massachusetts State Police Superintendent John DiFava as Chief of Campus Police. He will take office on October 15 and replace Anne P. Glavin, who was promoted to director of public safety.

DiFava said that he is looking forward to working in a smaller environment where he can have closer supervision of the community and its officers.

“I saw at MIT an opportunity to deal with my strong points,” DiFava said. “The fundamental basis of policing is people. You treat them respectfully, giving them the very best services for their community. I’m a people person.”

DiFava said that he plans to take a flexible approach to under-age drinking and other youth infractions. He promotes educational programs and other forms of positive reinforcement.

“I don’t believe that the hammer approach is effective. If you build a bond with the community, they will trust you. Arrest is not the answer. Penalty and punishment is not the answer. Common sense must prevail. You have to take it on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Campus police focus on service

DiFava said that the biggest challenges and goals in his new position are to build morale on the force and develop good relations between the police department and the MIT community. He has plans to do his by becoming personally involved in student life.

“I will be working out at the gym with the students. I’ll take any invitation. I’ll be at the games. I intend to be extremely visible on campus, and I expect my officers to do the same.”

According to DiFava, campus police officers must be different from ordinary police officers. They must be more service-oriented, and involved in the community beyond mere law enforcement. Currently, every campus police officer is a certified emergency medical technician, unlike Boston and Cambridge police officers.

Committee offers high praise

DiFava’s service focus was quite popular with the 14-member selection committee.

“I am delighted beyond description to welcome John DiFava to the MIT community,” said Stephen D. Immerman, director of enterprise services, in a press release. “His combination of experience, record of progressive leadership, and focus on service and community were clear indicators of his fit for this important role at MIT.”

“John is a person who commands respect,” said Josiah D. Seale ’02, one of two undergraduates on the selection committee. “He was very good about turning the state police from a military-style organization to a more community-focused one, which is what we need here.”

DiFava brings experience, sensitivity

DiFava joined the State Police in 1974 at age 22, and rose through the ranks to become superintendent in 1999. As superintendent, he commanded a budget of $240 million and a force of 2,341 law enforcement officers. By comparison, MIT Campus Police has a budget of $3 million and a force of 59 officers.

While he was on the state police force, DiFava developed a strong record for promoting diversity.

“The policing field was always a white male dominated position. It has changed, but I don’t think it has changed fast enough. If you have a good cross section of the community [on the force], the community will respect you,” DiFava said.

In his previous position, DiFava was one of the first to support the coming out of gay and lesbian officers, and he began actively recruiting officers from the gay community. He also instituted a policy of mandatory sexual harassment and diversity training for the Massachusetts State Police, which had been accused of racial profiling at traffic stops.

DiFava currently lives in Wilmington, MA and is married with two children. Despite the reduced responsibility in his new job, he does not plan to take a break from his “Type A” lifestyle.

“I put in twelve-hour days. That’s what I’m all about. I doubt that MIT will be any exception,” DiFava said.