The Drexel University Police Department welcomed Eileen W. Behr Jan. 7 to serve as the new director of police operations. She is the second director of the Department and the first woman to serve in the position.
Behr served as the first female chief of police for the Whitemarsh Township Police Department from 2003 to 2011. In 2011, she became the first female sheriff of Montgomery County. She held this position until December 2013.
As sheriff, Behr did not deal much with the hands-on, full-service operations of a university campus like Drexel’s. Now she is looking forward to becoming better acquainted with the community she serves.
“The ability to be able to be in an environment with young people who are learning and growing — I really liked that,” Behr said. “Young people are inspirational. They teach us a lot. That was a huge draw to come to this campus.”
As sheriff, she worked to reaccredit the Montgomery County department. In June 2013, the department received reaccreditation based on its practices and ability to meet established standards.
Vice President of Drexel Public Safety Domenic Ceccanecchio is glad to gain a director who understands the importance of accreditation. The Drexel University Police Department and the Drexel University Public Safety Communications Center both earned international accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies in November 2011.
Ceccanecchio was also glad to bring Behr to Drexel because of her community orientation.
“I wanted somebody that would provide strong leadership, someone that could come up with fresh, new ideas to move our program forward,” Ceccanecchio said. “We needed someone that understood interoperability and was a good communicator, and we found that with Eileen.”
Behr is looking forward to communicating with Drexel students. As chief of police for Whitemarsh, she served as liaison to the District Attorney’s School Safety Committee. In Montgomery County high schools, education programs about alcohol and driving were incorporated. She believes that drinking is an especially important issue to pay attention to on a college campus.
Behr also worked with high school and college students in internships and shadow programs in Montgomery County. Now, she has hopes to further educate Drexel students interested in law enforcement.
“If [young people] are interested in something in law enforcement, it’s important that they get exposed to different areas within a police department,” Behr said. “And, if you bring interns in, and they work with you, I think they go back to their friends and acquaintances. It bridges a gap. It builds trust with the students and the police.”
Interacting with the students and the surrounding community is as important to Behr as building strong relationships with her team and officers. She hopes to spend her first month as director getting to know the campus and her colleagues.
“I’ve been here just a week and a half, and I have to tell you, people are very welcoming here. People are willing to teach me things and doors are opened. I find the students, if I stop and ask people questions, to be very helpful and informative. I’m eager to get out into the community more than I have been,” Behr said.
Her eagerness brings fresh energy to a department that is proud of its past accomplishments, but set on continuous improvement.
Ceccanecchio believes that Behr brings an objective viewpoint to Drexel. She will be able to evaluate Drexel Police’s past and its goals for the future with an unbiased approach.
“What she brings is a different set of eyes and perspectives to try to make things better here,” Ceccanecchio said.
Behr can evaluate what has recently progressed. In June 2013, the Drexel Police Department adapted active shooter training, which instructs officers to seek out the perpetrator of a shooting before aiding victims. Students and faculty took part in mock scenarios in residence halls and the W.W. Hagerty Library, during which active shooter crimes were imitated.
The goal of this training is to neutralize all threat to the community first and foremost. It hopes to prevent victimization of further individuals while the perpetrator may still be on the loose.
“That’s the first thing that we want to do: stop the violence,” Ceccanecchio said.
Because the Drexel University Police Department works alongside the Philadelphia Police Department, the University of Pennsylvania Police Department, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, this type of training integrates various law enforcement partners throughout the community.
Behr supports the cross-training of all officers in the University City area.
“I just hope to be able to strengthen and continue those relationships with law enforcement agencies and federal agencies,” she said.
Behr is impressed by the Drexel University Police Department’s innovative endeavors. She has learned through her work in Montgomery County that building strong connections among all elements of the community propels the betterment of all police work.