By: Saimah Shareef
His career has consisted of being an officer friendly resource officer at a high school, sergeant, commander, deputy chief and now 42 years later, chief. Chief Michael Salatino, Chief of Police at Benedictine University, has spent 42 years dedicating his life to law enforcement. It was in 2006 when he walked in to Benedictine University and singlehandedly established the university’s police department that has thrived to what we see today.
“Each day when I wake up and come to work, it’s always about what I can do better and how I can improve our level of service,” stated Salatino.
Most Benedictine students have an awareness of the campus police through the parking tickets or fines they may have received for infractions on campus. However, there is so much that Salatino and his team account for on a daily basis. What happens if there is a tornado or a snow day? What is protocol for an active shooter on campus or the shutting down of an academic building? The emergency preparedness they have created is something that keeps the university running.
Salatino has been a policeman for 42 years. He was a commander at Mount Prospect Police Department for 27 years. After that, he spent nine years as deputy chief at Oakton College and then came here in 2006. He just walked in by himself and developed the manual, procedures, policies, made the patch, washed the cars. At that point, before the department, there had only been the security guards that worked at BenU. He will have been here for seven years next month.
“How many guys can retire from this job – not that I’m ready to retire yet – in my career field and say that they’ve actually started a police department? It’s a challenge and a reward, but I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t love it and if it wasn’t a part of me. This is my life.” Salatino said he was getting nostalgic as he recalled the events of his career.
After all the hard work Salatino has put into establishing and executing the activities of the BenU Campus Police Department, there has been a recent accomplishment that reflects the effort of the department. Benedictine University’s Police Department is the first private University law enforcement agency in Illinois to receive accreditation through the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (ILEAP).
After applying to the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the department was given the highest standards for getting certified as an accredited law enforcement agency if met. After working to reach these standards, the department then underwent a two-day evaluation by independent assessors from different parts of the state who came and poured through the records, general orders, policies, procedures, interviewed the day and night staff, went on calls with the officers and finally made their recommendations. After undergoing this tedious process, the BenU Campus Police Department was rewarded their accreditation in June.
The accreditation award is not the only honor the Benedictine University Police Department has received. The most recent report by StateUniversity.com ranked Benedictine University as the safest four-year school in Illinois.
Salatino attributes his success to his unique perspective on law enforcement, which was always centered on reaching out to the people he was serving. He focuses on building a relationship between the officers and the community by creating opportunities to engage. He believes bringing down the barriers between an officer and a civilian are important in creating a better environment and relationship by trying to figure out what has guided someone’s behavior.
“There might be a story behind a ticket. If you stop and listen to people it doesn’t make what they did right, but the police have discretion. You’d be surprised how you can connect with someone,” said Salatino. At the end of the day, Salatino asks himself whether he has reached out to the people he has interacted with and whether or not he has made a positive impact on those people. At the beginning of his career, Salatino already knew how he was going to treat people and what he wanted to accomplish as an officer. Those ideals have guided him through his career in law enforcement.
About seven years ago, the Benedictine University Campus Police Department didn’t exist. Today, this department puts on a junior police academy in the summer, offers self-defense courses and also has drug and alcohol awareness workshops. Salatino described his department as the “enforcement arm of the university.” While many other universities still simply have security, the BenU Campus Police were one of the founding departments here in Illinois to get a stable group together.
Salatino accredits a lot of responsibility to the department because they are campus police officers, not just police officers. After encountering a cop there’s typically no follow-up as one is usually directed to pay a fine or go to court.
“There’s a lot more ownership here,” Salatino said. “Here, I’m eating with you in the cafeteria, seeing you in the hallways, engaging you in the Quad and there’s a name you can come to.” Now the Benedictine students can remember that name as being Chief Michael Salatino.