Todd D. Sigler, former campus police chief at Southern Illinois University (SIU), began working as Davidson College's Chief of Campus Police and Director of Public Safety Jan. 6.
Sigler was associated with law enforcement at SIU for three decades, beginning as an undergraduate student. There was no history of law enforcement in his family tree, but during his sophomore year at SIU he needed a job and applied to work with the school's innovative "Saluki Patrol" of campus police student assistants. That work included event management, radio room dispatch and foot patrols. The experience sparked his interest in law enforcement and forged the career path that eventually brought him to Davidson.
Sigler said his work with the Saluki Patrol was a "tremendous" growth experience. "You're working in a capacity where you may need to confront students you know in the classroom. It trains you early in life in things like integrity, ethics and conflict resolution. Something can happen out of the blue, and you find yourself in a position where you have to decide to look the other way, or engage."
Sigler grew up in a household of four boys in the small Chicago suburb of Fox River Grove. His circle of friends played ice hockey on the frozen Fox River during the winters, and street hockey in the sandlots during the summer. The experience led him to become a fervent life-long Chicago Blackhawks fan, and also to become a hobbyist collector of signed sports memorabilia.
He graduated from SIU in 1984 with a major in administration of justice, and was soon employed full-time in campus law enforcement there. He rose through the ranks in the department until 2004, when he was promoted to Director of Public Safety. He also continued his education at SIU, earning a master's degree in public affairs in 1988, and a doctorate in higher education administration in 2011.
His areas of responsibility at SIU included crisis response, explosives disposal, staff training, crime prevention, policy and procedure implementation and disaster response. He also helped develop and administer a behavioral threat assessment training program that he and associates led for about a dozen other schools in the region. His good work at SIU earned him its Outstanding Civil Service Employee Award in 2004, and the Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Service Award in 2006.
Sigler said his job responsibilities at Davidson will be similar to those at SIU, but the landscape is very different. Located in Carbondale, Ill., SIU is a large public institution with significant student turnover and student housing intertwined with residential neighborhoods. It enrolls about 13,000 undergraduates and 4,600 graduate students. Sigler's department there employed 36 active sworn officers and 17 office staff. The Davidson department includes nine full-time and 13 part-time employees.
Sigler will report to Ed Kania, vice president of finance and administration at Davidson. Kania said, "Todd Sigler has had a remarkable career in campus police and public safety, and is extremely knowledgeable about the key issues in higher education–emergency management, Title IX and the Clery Act. We were fortunate to hire him at the conclusion of a national search. He has quickly embraced Davidson's culture of honor and will be a wise leader of our campus police and a caring, responsive advocate of student, faculty and staff safety in the community."
While Sigler has some ideas for new public safety programming at Davidson, he plans to proceed deliberately and in concert with students. He said student input at SIU was valuable in initiatives such as developing a task force on sexual assault, parking regulations and a disaster response program. He also was pleased at the effectiveness of a class he taught first-year students for many years about how to successfully transition from high school to college.
Sigler recognizes that he will be responsible for addressing the perennial problem of underage drinking on campus. He said communication with students holds the most promise for success. "You know that you're not going to eradicate it, so you do what you can to help students realize their role and responsibility as members of the college community," he said. "You've got to give them ownership of their behavior. They're going to make mistakes, because that's just a part of growing up and maturing."
He said new technology also has introduced another challenge to the field of campus law enforcement. "The job changed tremendously when students with a few taps on a phone got the ability to invite 500 of their non-closest friends to a block party. In addition, everyone has a camera phone now, and they can record and distribute videos of police on the street. The idea of someone recording you while you're doing your job is pretty unnerving if you're not ready for it. But officers occupy a unique position in a community with a vast amount of responsibility, and need to be aware that the public takes a great deal of interest in how they act."
Sigler said his decision to leave SIU and take the job at Davidson was a very deliberate process. After 30 years at SIU, he felt he had reached the end of his service there. However, he wasn't ready to retire from the profession, and began a deliberate search for a position where he could serve until retirement. "Obviously I'm not a job-hopper," he commented. "I sat back and asked myself, ‘If you're going to take another bite of the apple, where would you like to do it?'"
He was unfamiliar with Davidson, but began investigating the college and community when he saw the job advertised. He was impressed with what he learned during his inquiries and visits. "I found a lot of people who were proud of Davidson, and would take the time to talk with me about it," he said. "They took the time to not just say ‘Hello,' but to ask me questions, and listen to my answers."
Sigler said the motivation for remaining in a profession that can be stressful, and sometimes even dangerous, lies in its important societal purpose. He explained, "What I enjoy about police work is its community impact. What police do allows the community to function, and allows community members to do their jobs and go about their lives without worrying about their safety. I look forward to working in that regard here at Davidson."
Sigler and his wife of 21 years, Patty, have two children: Son Jason is an SIU graduate in marketing who was recently married and works with a tech startup company in Carbondale. Daughter Austyn is a sophomore at the Savannah College of Art and Design studying graphic design. Both children were competitive swimmers, and as they grew up Sigler volunteered as a swim meet official. He was glad to learn of Davidson's varsity swim team, and hopes to be able to help with it as well. He also plays golf occasionally.