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Blue blood to blue ribbons-Westfield State police officer honored

Blue blood to blue ribbons

Westfield State police officer honored

WESTFIELD, Mass., December 29, 2015- Westfield State University officer and Chicopee resident Lt. Bernie St. George was awarded the Sean Collier Award for Innovations in Community-Oriented Policing by the Massachusetts Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (MACLEA).  St. George was nominated by Tony Casciano, director of Public Safety and chief of University Police at Westfield State University. He received his award at the annual MACLEA meeting held earlier this month.

Established in 2013, the Sean Collier Award for Innovations in Community-Oriented Policing is named after MIT police officer Sean Collier who was killed in duty during a confrontation with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects in April of that year. To be considered for the award, officers must have a strong commitment to the campus community, a passion for crime prevention, contribute to the development of community policing programs, contribute to community relationship building and the development of strong partnerships, and utilize various communication tools.

St. George earned his bachelor’s degree in business management and his master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Western New England University. He attended the MA Special State Police Officer Academy in the late ’90s and began his law enforcement career at Springfield College as a campus police officer where he rose to the rank of sergeant.  He then went to Western New England University where he worked for five years before joining Westfield State in 2011.

“I appreciate the small university setting as it really gives me, and the department, the opportunity to get to know the entire community and them to know us,” St. George said. “It gives us the opportunity to make a difference on an individual basis, and it is very satisfying staying in touch with former students and watching them succeed after graduation.”

Casciano said St. George is deserving of the award because of his dedication to his job and the university as a whole.

“Bernie has a great passion for crime prevention and enjoys instructing programs to the students, faculty and staff here at Westfield State,” Casciano said. “He is also a great ambassador for the Department of Public Safety and the university. He, along with other members of the department, is very active in hosting crime prevention programs on campus which allows the WSU Police Officers to interact with our community in a positive way.”

One program that St. George has been instrumental in maintaining is active shooter training.

“When I got to Westfield State I noticed that while we (law enforcement) were training very hard to prevent and respond to the possibility of an active shooter, we were missing a vital aspect of the training, and that was the civilian population who would be the intended target of this sort of attack,” St. George said.

Utilizing the three principles established by Houston Police, run if you can, hide if you can’t, and fight if you must, St. George holds the trainings several times per semester to allow faculty, staff, and students the opportunity to learn skills and defense tactics and ask officers questions about a potential active shooter situation.

Casciano said he was proud to learn that St. George had won the award, which marks the first time in 20 years a Westfield State officer has been honored by the MACLEA.

“I am very privileged to have Bernie on my staff and was thrilled to learn that he was receiving this award,” Casciano said.

St. George said he was pleasantly surprised to learn that Casciano had nominated him.

“When I was told by Chief Casciano that he had nominated me for this award I was extremely shocked and grateful that he considered my activities worthy, and very grateful for a chief who puts his subordinates forward for such recognition,” St. George said. “It is an incredible honor to have been nominated, never mind chosen.”

When asked what advice St. George would give to students and future criminal justice professionals, his message was clear.

“For the future generation getting into the criminal justice field, I would say remember why you got into this field in the first place,” St. George said. “Do not let the day to day issues get you down; keep in mind the big picture.  Don't ever forget the passion to serve others that you have when you begin your career, and never compromise your integrity.” 

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