The chief’s office at the University Police Department looks nearly the way it did when the former chief left it – the pictures and awards have been taken down, and desk supplies are impossible to find. However, Chief Thomas Longo has wasted no time getting to work.
Longo replaced former chief Pat Johnson, who retired last week. Johnson spent a few days showing Longo the ropes and familiarizing him with files and department issues.
The new chief and his family moved here from Tallahassee, where he was assistant chief at Florida State University for three years.
At FSU, Longo used different ways to work on traffic and community safety issues. Students at a university may be seen as targets to outsiders because they may have credit cards, computers and expensive books, Longo said. Other issues come to campuses such as traffic, DUI and campus safety. Longo took an open approach to preventing these issues.
“The first thing (FSU police) did was made ourselves very approachable,” Longo said. “We got out in the community a lot. We did lots of crime prevention work where we would go to residence halls, go to fraternities and sororities, other groups (and) clubs and just talk about ways they can keep themselves safe.”
Traffic control is a big part of university safety, Longo said. He used a three-pronged approach to traffic at FSU: looking at DUIs, speeding and safety belt enforcement. FSU’s department educated its community about these subjects and enforced speed limits and safety belts. As chief, Longo wants to put more manpower around the USF community and make security visible to people in order to help prevent crimes.
“He has a big drive to bring an agency to the next level,” said Lt. Jim Russell, a colleague and friend of Longo from the FSU police department.
Longo led the FSU department to participate in traffic law enforcement challenges and started the Alcohol Intervention and Monitoring Team and a campus chapter for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Russell said.
As USF grows, UP hopes to do the same, Longo said. It has already made proposals to increase personnel, and there are plans to change facilities. Longo has done plenty of work at FSU, but he plans to bring his ideas to USF.
According to Russell, Longo involves himself in the community and associates with the students.
“I found him to be a very down-to-earth, approachable person,” Russell said. “He’s a very visional leader; he knows where he wants to take an agency and how to get there.”
Longo, 47, is a father of three. His eldest son works as a state trooper in Tampa, and he has two daughters, 16 and 10. Like their father, Longo’s children are still settling in, but he said they’re adaptable. He is still learning his way around the offices, and he said while his week in Tampa was not enough time to make plans for USF just yet, he has made some general plans.
Longo decided working at USF would be good for him since he has family here, and becoming police chief would be a big step in his career.
“My overall plan, of course, is to continue the good work the department has done,” Longo said. “They have a good reputation for providing public safety here on campus, and I want to make sure that continues.”