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Rally to protest DPS officer’s change of position

Syracuse University and SUNY-ESF students are holding a rally Monday afternoon to protest the change in position of a Department of Public Safety officer known for his friendly and outgoing personality. 

Former Cpl. Joe Shanley’s position in DPS’ Law Enforcement and Community Policing Division was changed Wednesday to public safety officer, said Jes Shanley, a senior international relations major and Shanley’s daughter. Shanley worked for the Syracuse Police Department for 16 years. DPS hired him one day after he retired from SPD in 2007.

The rally will be held at 2 p.m. on the corner of Waverly and South Crouse avenues, according to the Facebook event “Rally for Joe Shanley.” The hashtag #SaveJoeSU also began circulating at about 4 p.m. Saturday. Paul Ang, a State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry graduate student, and SU alumni Sacchi Patel and Ben Bradley are organizing the event.

Shanley spoke out about issues of sexism, racism and homophobia within different levels of the department throughout the last six years, Jes Shanley said.

“He stood up for what he believed in, and that rubbed people the wrong way,” she said, adding that Shanley is declining to comment at this time, as he might be seeking legal advice.

Due to restructuring within DPS, Shanley had to reapply for his position, Jes Shanley said. The process seemed like a formality to him, she said, but Shanley was given a notice that essentially stated he wasn’t qualified for the job. He also received information about leaving his position, she said.

Thomas Wolfe, senior vice president and dean of student affairs, said the term “demotion” that is circulating is inaccurate and loaded with assumptions. He also said the rumor Shanley will not be able to interact with students and student organizations is false.

“Joe is a true asset to our campus, and we value him very much,” he said.

Though he cannot comment specifically about any one employee, Wolfe said he would never allow speaking out on an issue such as sexism, racism or homophobia affect a personnel decision or go unnoticed in a unit he supervises.

Wolfe said one of Shanley’s biggest strengths is his love for students, and emphasized there’s a lot of information circulating that is not “based in reality.”

He said the restructuring of DPS involves a commitment to maintain employment levels. Wolfe is concerned about the misinformation and the conclusions some people are drawing from it. He said he does not want anyone such as Shanley harmed because of the restructuring, but was not able to discuss the matter more specifically because of privacy and policy issues.

Jes Shanley said her father is upset, but is more concerned for the students and community. Shanley’s son Seamus is a freshman at SU and walk-on center on the football team.

DPS Chief Tony Callisto and Associate Chief John Sardino couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Callisto noted Shanley’s commitment to the service of others and community policing in a Nov. 17, 2009 article in The Daily Orange.

“While many of the folks here do a great job of interacting with students and working toward building relationships, Joe has a real unique ability to really connect with students in ways that quite frankly are amazing,” he said in the article.

Kevin Quinn, senior vice president for public affairs at SU, directed comments to a university statement released Saturday.

“Officer Shanley’s role with DPS will continue to offer him opportunities to engage the campus in the very positive way that students expect,” the statement said. “As with each of our DPS employees, we value Officer Shanley’s contributions to our organization and the strong connections he has made with the campus community.”

The statement references the restructuring within DPS. It said all candidates for positions were given full consideration on the merits of their background, experience and skill set. Citing privacy concerns and human resources policy, it declines to give any more specifics.

Lou Marcoccia, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Kal Alston, senior vice president for human capital development and Wolfe signed the statement.

Ang, one of the rally’s organizers studying geospatial information science and engineering at ESF, is an adviser and mentor for the campus group A Men’s Issue. The group is dedicated to redefining and evaluating masculinity, as well as the idea that domestic violence is not just an issue for women.

He said Shanley had been coming to the group’s meetings ever since he can remember, and is viewed as an older brother or father figure to members. He genuinely cares about students and their safety, Ang said.

“He’s in my mind the model for what campus law enforcement should be,” he said.

During the group’s meeting Thursday, a DPS officer who is friends with Shanley told members about Shanley’s change in position, he said. Ang said he immediately began reaching out to students and alumni to organize the rally.

He described the news as “surreal.”

Jes Shanley said she and her father are thankful for the support shown so far.

Said Jes Shanley: “My dad appreciates that students care so much to do something.”

  • Nicole

    Sad alum is sad. He’s a great guy. Bravo to the students organizing this rally.

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