New UMass police chief stepping in and reaching out

By Chelsie Field

Courtesy umass.edu

The new University of Massachusetts police chief is seeking to become a familiar face both in and out of uniform.

John Horvath of Rocky Hill, Conn., beat out 88 other applicants to take over the reins of the University’s police force. He began his tenure on Monday and has emphasized the importance of making himself known to the campus and the community.

“The important thing is to meet as many people both on campus and in the Amherst community as quickly as possible,” Horvath said in an interview last month.

Horvath previously served as the assistant chief of police at the Hartford Police Department in Connecticut, where he worked his way up through the ranks after joining the force in 1994 as a police recruit.

“I’m looking to continue my career with a progressive agency, and I see UMass Amherst as embodying this. … The sense I got when I first visited was that people really enjoy their jobs, and UMass has a great community,” Horvath said.

While serving in Hartford, Horvath also earned his master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University.

The 42-year-old, who was born and raised in Connecticut, described his mission as the new police chief as one that will “keep our officers and our community safe” by educating and communicating with not only those at the University, but also those in the community beyond campus.

“We want to maintain an air of openness and an air of learning,” he said. “We want the college students to be safe and not put themselves or the community in danger.”

Horvath expects to continue to “work closely” with the Amherst Police Department – especially in cases of noise disturbances and underage drinking at off-campus parties.

“I’m not there to change the culture of UMass,” he said “I’m there to be a part of it.”

“Being a policeman, whether you’re in a city or college campus, all comes back to ‘What is our prime role?’ which is our service,” Horvath added. “It comes back to having a very open and honest conversation with people with the police department.”

Horvath said what he enjoys most in his line of work is helping others and feeling like he’s made a difference.

“For me, this isn’t a job,” he said. “A job is what you do 9 to 5. A career is a way to grow. This is a growth opportunity.”

Horvath – who will be making around $140,000 a year – succeeds Johhny Whitehead, who left UMass in March for a job at Rice University. Patrick Archbald, the department’s deputy chief, had served as the interim police chief after Whitehead’s departure.

Horvath said he hopes that in the coming weeks students, faculty and staff won’t be afraid to approach him with any ideas or suggestions they may have.

“Approach me, be open to new ideas and be open to the process,” Horvath said. “I want to hear you. I want to listen to you. I would love to meet as many people as possible.”

Chelsie Field and be reached at [email protected].