Tufts' New Top Cop

Kevin Maguire, director of public and environmental safety, brings a wealth of experience and understanding to the job

Kevin Maguire

Before coming to Tufts this summer as the director of public and environmental safety, Kevin Maguire had done similar work at two other colleges, where he learned an important fact about students: they want to be independent, but they also need to be safe.

Maguire recognizes the fine line between protecting young people and allowing them to be adults. “It’s a delicate balance,” he says. “On the one hand, we want them to learn and to grow. On the other hand, we don’t want them to jeopardize their own safety through their behavior.”

Maguire oversees the Department of Public and Environmental Safety, which includes University Police, Emergency Management, Tufts Emergency Medical Services (TEMS), Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and Administrative Services for all three Tufts campuses. He’s responsible for the safety of nearly 10,000 students as well as more than 1,200 faculty and 3,000 staff.

For someone who has spent a lot of time on university campuses, Maguire’s own college experience didn’t go well—at least not at first. A native of South Boston, he attended Northeastern University, but dropped out after his first year because he didn’t have a clear direction for where he wanted to take his life.

While school was not yet the right place, Maguire found his way, joining the U.S. Air Force, serving as a firefighter, rescue man and emergency communications center manager. After his stint in the Air Force, Maguire joined the Boston Municipal Police Department, where he served for 14 years.

He says he is especially proud of the community policing work he and his colleagues did in Boston’s public housing developments in the mid-1990s. Mayor Thomas Menino had called for community stabilization efforts, followed by a permanent community-oriented police presence in the city’s public housing developments. It was important, Maguire says, for the police department to not be perceived as an invading army in its city-wide effort to remove drug dealers and other serious offenders from public housing.

Instead, he and his fellow officers worked hard to build trusting, problem-solving relationships with residents. As a result of their work, Maguire says, “we had people come up to us and say they hadn’t been out of their homes after dark in 10 years. It feels good when you make a direct difference in peoples’ lives and make them safer.” Those efforts drove down crime in public housing by 33 percent over three years, and resulted in safer communities for the city’s most vulnerable population.

While he was with the Boston Municipal Police Department, Maguire was promoted to the rank of captain and appointed commander of the Patrol Division, responsible for more than 80 sworn police personnel.

He also returned to school, attending classes at night and on weekends. It wasn’t easy. He continued to work full time while earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at UMass/Boston in 1993 and a master’s degree in public administration from Suffolk University two years later. With family help, he wrapped his schedule around the needs of his and his wife’s two daughters, Melissa, now a sophomore at Plymouth State University, and Jessica, a sophomore at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree.

In 1999 Maguire moved to a new academic environment: he became captain and associate director for patrol and emergency communications units of Northeastern University’s police department. Serving the university community was one of the best experiences of his career, he says, but after four years “building a community policing philosophy and operational model for the department,” he felt he needed some experience overseeing budget and personnel issues to reach his goal of being a director of public safety.  

While at Northeastern, he was recruited by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority as their director of public safety, a newly created position. He was charged with developing the public safety program for the authority’s four campuses, including a newly operational facility on the South Boston waterfront and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. In 2010, he became director of public safety and chief of police at Simmons College.

When the Tufts job opened up, Maguire was intrigued. He was well aware of Tufts’ standing among university police departments. “It’s an agency that has a reputation within the industry for excellence and has been an accredited police department for a number of years. Emergency Management and Tufts Emergency Medical Services are cutting edge, and the Environmental Health and Safety Department is second to none,” Maguire says. “That means that Tufts University’s administration and leadership and the Tufts Public Safety folks, over a sustained period of time, have met mandates and high standards for public safety agencies in the Commonwealth that are not easy to achieve and maintain.”

All three Tufts campuses are safe, he says, but one of the challenges is striking a balance between inviting the community in to use university facilities and making sure people are on campus for legitimate purposes.

Two of the key safety problems on all college campuses, he says, are underage drinking and thefts of unattended property, usually laptops and other portable electronic devices. Maguire says he is committed to strengthening the relationships between the police department and students, faculty and staff so that they “are as strong and robust as they can be, and we’re perceived as part of the community, not apart from it.”

Marjorie Howard can be reached at marjorie.howard@tufts.edu.

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