By Ben Theriault, Staff Writer
Last week USM received a new Chief of Police/Director of Public Safety & Security, Noel March, who took over for Interim Chief of Police, Ronald Saindon.
March has substantial experience working with law enforcement in Maine. He has worked as the Sheriff of Cumberland County, the Chief of Police at the University of Maine (UMO), the 39th U.S. Marshal for the district of Maine and has instructed classes on a variety of legal topics.
March’s experience at UMO garnered the attention of administrators within the Human Resources department at USM. After finishing a rigorous search process and a series of interviews, March was ultimately selected by President Glenn Cummings and University of Maine Chancellor, James Page.
This transition has coincided with a change in administration dynamics at USM. In the past, the department of Public Safety was administered by Interim Chief Business Officer, Buster Neel from the Finance and Administration department. Now March will be overseen by Nancy Griffin, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs. This shift occurred in an attempt to have the Public Safety department be more connected to USM students.
Griffin stated that USM is making efforts to adopt a “community policing” model. She is optimistic that March will be able to meet these needs. She added that, “Noel March has a wealth of experience in this area. He will model our service promise, student focused every day.” March plans to achieve this through community events.
While at UMO he implemented multiple successful outreach programs. One of his programs called, “Campus eyes” sought to increase community policing by creating a service that allows students to report crimes anonymously. This is part of his community policing ideology that he hopes to bring to USM. March explained the concept, “Community policing is a philosophy in our profession. It’s an approach to our responsibilities that includes partnerships, problem solving and organizational change.”
March hopes to achieve similar results and to expand community involvement at USM. He stated that, “The more connections we can make, the greater the network of relationships of trust and rapport and mutual respect, the safer we will all be.” Griffin acknowledged this sentiment by commenting that, “You will see him [March] and his staff at our events and out on campus meeting the members of the USM community.”
In the past, March has made serious efforts to connect with his community by volunteering extensively and working with non-profit groups. He was the former chair of LifeFlights, a non-profit organization that provides critical care service to Mainers; co-directed the UMO program “Badges For Baseball,” a program that seeks to assist underserved youth; advised the student group “Male Athletes Against Violence;” created the “Student Community Service Corps,” a work study program that sought to spread knowledge and monitor the camus; and is part of the National Guard Auxiliary.
According to March, police officers should work to educate the public. He stated, “I view university police officers and our communication officers as educators first and enforcers last—if a summons is written or an arrest is made that means that all other options have failed.” March refers to himself as a lifelong learner. This claim is supported through an assortment of educational achievements. He has earned an M.A. in Peace and Reconciliation from UMO, a B.S. in Organization & Leadership from the University of New England and a certificate in Mediation from USM.
March has also taught in a variety of settings, he has been invited to speak in Russia, Canada, Bulgaria and Peru. He has worked as an adjunct instructor at University of Maine Augusta and the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, as well as in restorative justice and community policing programs.
March wants to ensure that every member of the USM community feels valued and respected. He stated, “I will accept no measure of bias prejudice favoritism or unethical conduct among any member of the USM Department of Public Safety.” He is an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As an advocate for these communities, he has given lectures on implicit bias so officers will think more critically about their social positions and interactions with citizens. March stated that self-awareness is an essential aspect of being a police officer.
USM administration is optimistic about the upcoming changes. Griffin stated, “I am thrilled Noel March has joined our community, he is student-centered and community focused. We are fortunate he has agreed to serve in this key leadership position at USM.”