Yolanda Smith named Tufts' new executive director of public safety

The Tufts Daily

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Yolanda Smith, Tufts' incoming executive director of public safety, is pictured.Courtesy Patrick Collins

By Alexander Janoff

Yolanda Smith will become Tufts University’s next executive director of public safety, according to an email sent to the Tufts community on Tuesday. The email was signed by Executive Vice President Michael Howard and Vice President for Operations Barbara Stein.

In her new role at Tufts, Smith will “lead the university’s emergency management, fire safety, threat assessment and management, emergency medical services, and police functions,” according to the email.

Smith will assume the role on July 1. She is currently special sheriff and superintendent of the Suffolk County House of Correction with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department. In this role, she oversees over 1,000 staff and 1,400 inmates.

Smith joined the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department as a correction officer in 1995. She worked as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer and served as a corporal, lieutenant, captain, assistant deputy superintendent and assistant superintendent before becoming superintendent.

As superintendent, Smith increased opportunities for female and LGBTQ inmates, and she introduced programs to help young offenders earn high school and college degrees. She also implemented “open circles” — programs where inmates could express themselves through poetry and art — following the killing of George Floyd last summer.

Smith implemented weekly visits from herself and command staff to housing units to field resident questions and concerns. She also created a less threatening uniform for some sheriff personnel so those in custody were not always engaged with fully uniformed officers.

As executive director of public safety at Tufts, Smith will be tasked with implementing the recently released recommendations of the Working Group on Campus Safety and Policing, which include improved transparency and community engagement, increasing the use of non-police-officer personnel for routine services — such as well-being checks, lockouts and transports — and expanding the Tufts University Police Department’s use of mental health professionals to respond to mental health crises. 

“When President Monaco committed Tufts to being an anti-racist community, I really wanted to be part of that,” Smith said in a Tufts Now article. “In conversations I’ve already had at Tufts, everyone has been receptive to change. They want to be part of the solution.”

The university-wide search committee, which included students, faculty and staff from across all of Tufts’ campuses, fielded over 100 individuals from across the country. In their email, Howard and Stein thanked the committee for its work.

“Through the hard work of the search committee—and all those who contributed to this search—we have found in [Smith] a leader whose unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion, collaborative leadership, and thoughtful innovation distinguished her in an exceptionally strong pool of candidates,” the email said.

Smith will replace Chip Coletta, interim director of public safety, who occupied the role shortly after Kevin Maguire stepped down as executive director of public safety in October 2019.

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The Tufts Daily is the entirely student-run newspaper of record at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. An editorially and financially independent organization, the Daily’s staff of more than 100 covers news, features, arts and sports on Tufts’ four campuses and in its host communities. The Daily’s editorial board and columnists provide opinions and commentary alongside op-eds submitted by readers and members of the Tufts community. In recent years, the Daily has also expanded into multimedia, including podcasts and videojournalism. Founded in 1980, the Daily publishes a print edition four days each week and a digital edition every weekday during the academic year. All of the Daily’s coverage can be found on its consistently updated website devoted to upholding its motto: “Where you read it first.”

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