By: Sophia Pallozzi
Chief Tucker sitting behind his desk. (Photo by: Sophia Pallozzi.)
Every day, students scatter across the plaza, either rushing to make their classes or grabbing a bite to eat at the Hub. Among the well-known locations on campus, the University Police Department (UPD), is one of them. With 24 New York State Police personnel on Purchase College grounds, Chief of Police, Dayton Tucker, says, “We are more than just a police department.”
Tucker was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Looking back, with a reminiscent smile, he recalls, “It’s funny because I grew up in the city, I definitely couldn’t say I wanted to be a cop.” But that all changed when he was fresh out of college. Tucker’s aunt was murdered in a domestic violence incident. “I remember going through the trauma,” Tucker said. “Then the trial came around and the detectives who made the arrest came to my family. They told us to do whatever we could to speak for our aunt.”
It was the detectives who shaped Tucker’s perspective on law enforcement, and the effort they put in to be there for the family at a time of grief. “They would come to the house, pick us up, take us all the way to the courthouse, and tell us ‘On the hardest of days, you got to make it to court. You got to be there for your aunt,’” said Tucker. After making it through the whole trial, Tucker began to admire the cops for what they did. At that point, he thought, “Hey, maybe this would be a good career.”
Chief Tucker standing in front of his shelves full of books and trinkets. (Photo by: Sophia Pallozzi.)
After graduating from Adlai E. Stevenson High School in the Bronx, Tucker attended SUNY Old Westbury but ended up transferring to The College of New Rochelle. President Milly Peña said, “What I think people should know about Chief Tucker is that he’s a SUNY Graduate. I really see somebody who’s grown up to become a great Chief of Police.”
During his time at Westbury, he remembers finding it hard to go to class when Jerry Springer was on. Laughing, he said, “Ugh, I was trying to see if it was his baby or not!” Tucker was familiar with the cops on his campus and was even told by one that he should think about taking the civil service test to become a cop.
“I thought back to the officer at Old Westbury,” Tucker said. “I thought, you know what, I should really take that test.” He got into the police academy, but remembers the something that helped him along the way; working for the Boys and Girls Club.
“I’ve worked with him for a long time,” Patty Brice, Vice President of Student Affairs said. “He’s a great colleague whose very trusted. Most importantly, he is really an advocate for students, and is in support of the students.”
A picture on Chief Tucker's wall capturing the moment he received the 2017 SUNY Police Chiefs Association Michael Bailey Leadership Award.(Photo by: Sophia Pallozzi.)
After getting his feet wet, Tucker took the State University Police Officer Test and passed. While at the New York City Police Academy, he remembers being an outsider. “It was interesting, they were all training to be NYPD, and I was the only guy from a different agency,” said Tucker. He was assigned to SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.
“Unlike the campus we have here, this campus was among the streets,” Tucker said. Tucker recalls one incident where an elderly woman was missing. Tucker and another officer were sent to find her, but after hours of looking, they were paged back. Tucker insisted on going one more block. “Sure enough, we showed our light and there she was. She was submerged in a deep puddle of water, and we were able to retrieve her,” said Tucker. It’s events like those that encourage him to keep going on tough days.
Chief Tucker chatting with a collogue. (Photo by: Sophia Pallozzi.)
Now, having worked at Purchase College for seven years and becoming the first black chief in 2015, Tucker can be seen at many events across campus, whether it be for safety precautions, or building a relationship with the students.
When asked about a past incident where an African American student was wrongly accused of having a taser, Tucker said, “I spoke with the student personally. He was unhappy about the student conduct process. Whenever UPD interacts with students, the report automatically goes to student conduct.”
He also commented about his thoughts on recent protests, saying, “I’ve been at Purchase College for a long time, I’ve met some wonderful students, and I’ve seen many protests over the years. For the most part, Purchase keeps it very safe. However, there is always a possibility that an outsider from campus can come in with the wrong intentions.”
A prayer space has been discussed for those who practice a religion and need a safe and private place to pray. Chief Tucker had no comment on the space. Brianna Guzman, a freshman psychology major, and UPD intern, said, “Chief Tucker has made me feel welcomed and invited all through my interning experience. He always gives beneficial feedback and is very involved in all that goes on in the community.”
Although he admits that juggling family and work is hard, Tucker has a wife and two kids and finds solace in spending time with them. He talked about his daughter being “the most adorable thing,” and helps him deal with stressful days. Working almost 12 hours a day, his shift doesn’t end when he gets home, sometimes getting calls from supervisors. But above all else, “As long as I get out of here to see my daughter before she goes to sleep,” Tucker says, “that definitely takes all the stress away.” Tucker jokes about having “3,326 kids, and then two at home.”