Meet Your New Officers



Maria McGeary

Officer Cole, Director Tedjeske and Lieutenant Christake pose in front of the University’s brand new police vehicle.                                                                                Photo courtesy of Villanova University.

The past academic year was rife with controversy on campus as students, faculty, staff and alumni grappled with the decision to arm the University’s Public Safety Officers. Rev. Peter M. Donohue O.S.A. Ph.D’s October announcement was met with protest in the form of forums, petitions, marches, and vehement reactions on social media.

As the fall semester begins campus is now patrolled by three sworn and armed officers: Director David Tedjeske, Lieutenant George Christake and Officer Michael Cole. Three public safety officers who were hired internally will finish their seven-month academy training in December. Of the three external hires, two will begin their training in January. Additionally the department has added a new vehicle to their fleet. It’s only distinction is the label “Police.” Another Police vehicle is expected to arrive within the next two weeks.

In two separate interviews the three officers sat down with The Villanovan to discuss the transition, their roles in the department, and their time at Villanova.


What is the current status of sworn and armed officers in Public Safety?

Right now we have two officers who are on duty, George Christake and Michael Cole, and we will also have three new officers who are external hires that will be starting on Monday. So our hiring is really a combination of our existing staff that we selected and trained, and the two officers that are currently working have already had the police academy and so that’s why they are on duty and ready to go right now. We have three officers in the academy who are existing public safety officers that were selected and they are in the academy and will be done in December. So that will make a total of six officers, and then the three that I am hiring starting Monday that will be nine, however two of those three will need to go to the academy as well, so they will start the academy in January and then they won’t actually be on duty until the next academic year because the academy is seven months.

What was the selection process like?

For all of our officers there was a selection process that began with a physical agility requirement. We gave a written aptitude test, a general aptitude test. We also gave an assessment called the EQI, which is an emotional intelligence inventory that measures empathy, judgement, problem solving like all of those kind of soft skills. Because one of the mistakes employers make is that we tend to, especially in the police field, we tend to hire people for their hard skills, meaning their technical knowledge, and then we end up disciplining them and firing them for their lack of people skills, for their lack of soft skills. So we did the EQI assessment on all of them. And then we did a panel interview that was an hour long that also screened for EQI factors. So in the assessment of the responder’s answer, you are looking for the technical answer and then you are also looking for those EQI skills that can also be found in those answers. We also did background investigations on our internal and external applicants. On our external applicants we did polygraph examinations, we visited neighbors, past employers, we talked to a lot of people we even go to a lot of homes and speak to family members.

The University was so committed on finding the right people for these positions. It’s going to take a while to get up to full staff, because we have been so meticulous in our process for selecting officers. The ones we have selected are the ones who have made it through all those hurdles. The external applicant pool had like 300 applicants for the positions.  So we did a lot of screening to get to the ones we selected.

Students have expressed their concerns over the arming of public safety. How do you deal with their concerns while trying to make this transition?

I think keeping the lines of communication open is one thing. We have done that through the oversight committee. We have done that through direct outreach to student groups and through accountability. We’re doing a very thorough job of selection, we do a very thorough job of training. We have strong policies in place. The next piece of that is accountability. We have multiple ways that students and other members of the community can express concerns or ask questions through our website through ethics points which is the university hotline for reporting things. A big part of that accountability is the body cameras that all of the sworn officers are wearing. Anything that they are involved in, the body worn camera is turned on, and you know that’s available for review. We are the first police department in the country to adopt body worn cameras. It is certainly a big part of the puzzle when it comes to the whole equation of making sure that you have the most professional department.

On the transparency piece, the oversight committee, which is chaired by Father Rob Hagan, is meeting regularly. That group which is made up of members of our university committee is designed to oversee to make sure that we are staying consistent with our mission. The mission of protecting our students, faculty and staff.

What is the role of the oversight committee?

Their job is not to manage the department. That is my job.  The chair of that committee does have a direct line of communication with the president. The chair meets annually with the audit and risk committee of the trustees. Their role is not to manage the operation. They are more like a citizen review board.

Have you faced any problems with making the transition of armed officers on campus or has it been problematic for the community to accept this transition.

Well, it has been a tremendous amount of work and it has been something that we have taken to be very serious. I’m am not just talking about the confines of this building. I understand the concerns and the things that have been put in place are to mitigate the risks and the downsides.

What are the benefits of this transition?

Downstairs in our dispatch office we had one communications officer all the time, and he had to answer the phone, answer the radio, monitor fire alarm systems, burglar alarm systems, the wildcard system, the Nova alert system, the Nova safe system, people walking up to the window who needed something. We have all this data, all the stuff coming into one central point, one person there all the time as well as having to monitor all the CCTV cameras (on and off campus). In my view it was a vulnerability only to have one officer there trying to do all this stuff and when we had a busy incident, something that resulted in a lot of calls, so when you think of something big happening on campus, so you’re thinking how many phone calls? The officers are going to the scene, you might need an ambulance, you might need a fire department, you might need outside police. So just way too much for one person to do.

So we are going to two dispatchers at all times. We are in the process of hiring 6 additional dispatchers.  There will be a total of 9. That will allow us to have two on duty at all times. So they will be able to more effectively monitor all systems and be prepared in the event of something going on. When we put the housing officer program to rest, we added a dozen or so cameras on south campus, not looking at anything private but looking at the exterior doors and the areas on the outside of south campus. So you know that we can still monitor, but do it more effectively and in a way that’s more efficient

Have you seen a decrease in incidents since you have added the cameras and new officers?

Actually, we have. Our crime statistics will be realized in a couple of weeks and when those come out. We certainly haven’t seen an increase in incidents.  



Why did you decide to apply to work with Villanova Public Safety?

Cole: I worked for a borough, which is a very community based and community-oriented position. So I deal with a lot of not only adults in the other police department that I worked for, but I also dealt with student ages and younger ages and I’ve been big into community policing. On campus universities you have that opportunity to do that. You can be involved with the community and you’re seen all the time. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of my job.

What was your career before Villanova?

Cole: I’ve been a police officer for six years. Rockledge Borough Police Department was where I spent most of my time. I was also trained to work for a township for a year and had the opportunity to work with them. I’ve been a juvenile officer. I’m also a training officer, trained probably about twenty new cadets in other police departments. I put together a lot of schools for officers for training to enhance their careers and also make them better. You can never have enough training and I’ve really enjoyed that aspect as well. It’s been six years, actually, in May.

Christake: I retired from Haverford Police Department, which is right nearby. I still live in Havertown with my family. I’m 10 minutes from the university, it just kind of fit. I still wanted to kind of be in the security end, but after all the years with the police department I was ready for a break or a change. So when I got this position it just fit right. I like the community that’s here. It’s a nice little way to come to work. To me there’s no stress. It’s just fun to work. At the University they’re all friendly. When the director talked to me about possibly converting, I took an interest in it because my career was actually working in it. Not too many people actually create a police department. So it was a unique situation that I put myself into where I was actually helping build the police department and I’ve taken mass enjoyment in it. Not a lot of people get to do that. So I’ve enjoyed the ride.

What is an experience at Villanova that you particularly enjoy or is special to you?

Chistake: As funny as it is, I love move in. I think move in is unique. My son just started his first year of college, not here, down in Florida, but I’ve never gone through that other than this year. When I first came here the move in to me was really neat because you have all the parents come in, stressing, and just to see students on campus helping out, running around. It’s just so different than your normal everyday here. It’s a stressful time for parents, but everybody seems to be having a good day. Everybody’s really friendly and I enjoy that day because I can have a lot of interaction with the students and the parents and kind of meet everybody. I like that a lot.

Cole: We have a student-run EMS, VEMS. It’s been nice because a lot of the events, I like to do a lot of the sport events and things like that. And being able to work with them and actually work with the students and hear what they have to say because they’re still directly related to them, and the connection we’re building, it’s like a friendship more than just I work with you or you see me on the street. It’s more of a connection with them as opposed to me just being on one end of the spectrum and them on the other end of the spectrum. So it’s nice being able to integrate because then I also meet their friends and I get to meet who they are. I’ll say it’s nice having the students and being able to do what they do, even with the reporters and everything else. It’s a connection with you guys, and it helps.

Officer Michael Cole has been with the University for a year.                                                                                                                                   Photo by John Lee

Do you have a favorite spot on campus? A favorite lunch spot or place during your shift?

Cole: Camp Co doesn’t count, right?

I guess I’m at the Pavilion all the time because I’m at the sporting events, so I enjoy that. And I can relate to that. And then obviously Camp Co, and the sweet potato fries I just discovered.

Christake: Right now I’m on nights and nothing’s open at night. But you know what’s nice, they did a really nice job down at Bartley.

What were your experiences last year during the championship?

Cole: It was insane. It was great. I was actually in the Pavilion when they won, and I remember standing there and I was standing next to a bunch of students. And I’m sitting there and I’m like, oh my God they’ve got 12 seconds left, come on, just score this. And how exciting it was even for me, working here and being able to experience that and just the excitement. It was awesome.

Chistake: We work a lot of games so we build a connection with a lot of the basketball players and just watching them progress up through the years, it just something. We were as excited as any student here and we got into a few groups there and were high-fiving, it was a great time. I’ve never seen an experience like that.

When the Phillies won the World Series, this had more excitement in it than that did. I thoroughly enjoyed that as well.

Can you speak to the interview and application process that you went through to be in this position?

Cole: When I started they released an internal application for us to apply and obviously, me being a police officer prior, I was interested. Because I was already what is called an Act 120, that’s our certification to be a police officer in Pennsylvania. I already had that so I didn’t have to go and do that portion of it. But I had to take a physical agility test, where you had to run a mile and a half in a certain amount of time, run a 300-meter dash in a certain amount of time, do a certain amount of push-ups and sit-ups. You complete that, then you do a written aptitude test. Mathematics, different types of problem questions and answers. And then there was also a reading comprehension test. After that it was an interview, and then conditional offer of employment at that point. I’ve also taken classes while I’ve been here, going to training while I’ve been here. When you’re a police officer you have opportunities in other outside schools that you can go to to enhance your career, and Villanova always is pushing us to go to those. So I’ve done a few of those as well.

Christake: We constantly go through, even before we became police, yearly update trainings and things like that. We take yearly classes on conflict resolution, diversity training. We have that coming up within the next two weeks.

Lieutenant George Christake poses in the new Garey Hall office.                                                                                                                           Photo by John Lee

What is diversity training?

Christake: Usually we get a speaker in, and we’ve been using different speakers to get different perspectives. Basically how the training goes is it kind of opens your mind up to different perspectives as far as, like for someone growing up in an urban environment would have perspective on a certain situation. What the whole class does is basically open your mind up. It’s an interactive class, it’s not something that someone just speaks to. They get you involved, they throw you in different scenarios and put you in different groups and it’s really interesting. The first one I’ve taken when I was a police officer, I always pride myself on trying to do the right thing and doing a great job. When I went to one of those classes it just totally opened me up to how somebody else might think. Even though I know in my heart I’m doing everything right and everything for somebody, somebody else is in a different perspective where they may not see what I’m doing in the same way that I do. and that’s basically what the diversity training is. It kind of makes you think, and it kind of puts your eyes in different perspectives around the globe. It is pretty neat.

Certainly you’re aware of the Villanova community’s reaction to the decision to arm Public Safety. What do you want the students, faculty, and staff to know about your new positions, how you perceive your role on campus, and this transition?

Chistake: I think the main thing is that really not a whole lot is going to change other than us being able to provide more safety and security for the campus. That’s our primary goal. It always has been. I’ve already met with a few groups since they’ve been back here and the first couple questions are am I going to be arrested more, things like that. It’s really going to be business as usual, as before. We’re here for safety, and that’s our number one goal. A lot of people here are really passionate about that in general and they’re going to take that to the nth degree. A lot of people hear police department and some people get scared of that word. There is definitely a difference between a campus police department and a municipal police department.

You build a rapport, you build a friendship and you’re basically protecting your friends. That’s how the philosophy is. So really not much is going to change as far as from the students’ point of view. There’s a lot of stuff changing that’s helpful that they might not see but it is an overwhelming change and it’s going to be a total benefit.

Cole: It’s more of a benefit for us to be in that position now anyway, just like [Chistake] was saying. Our response time will be better. It’s about public safety, whether it’s public safety with police or public safety officers, we’re here to help everyone else out.

How have your conversations with students helped you to quell some of their anxieties?

Christake: The ones that are opening up to me, I’m trying to make as many connections. Like I said, I talked to a few groups, but obviously there’s a lot of students on campus. We’re trying to spread the word as quickly as possible that we’re here to help them just like we were here before. We have more equipment to help them now. They are the top questions that I’ve been asked, if I get caught drinking am I going to get cited? Am I going to be arrested for this, am I going to be arrested for that? Again, they’re associating police with arrests, and again that’s not our goal. We’re not here to arrest. We’re here to provide safety. If I go up to a student, that’s the questions I’m getting asked, more often than not.