Syracuse University Magazine

Anthony Callisto Jr.

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Advancing Public Safety

Anthony Callisto Jr. G'98, director and chief of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), has dedicated his career to effective civic-minded law enforcement in Central New York, and gained a national reputation for success. A lifelong resident of the Syracuse area, Callisto took charge of DPS in 2006 after serving 25 years with the Onondaga County Sheriff's Office, including more than a decade as chief deputy. Although Callisto had not planned a transition into university public safety, the right job found him at the right time. "Just as I was approaching retirement eligibility at the sheriff's office, I learned that SU was about to transform its campus security operation to campus law enforcement," says Callisto, referring to 2004 state legislation that allowed DPS officers to qualify as "peace officers," a status giving them full arrest powers. "When I heard a national search was on for a deputy chief, I applied. I think it was a good fit all the way around." 

No stranger to campus, Callisto earned a master's degree in public administration at the Maxwell School and had worked as a consultant and instructor in Maxwell's Executive Education Program since 2001. Moreover, he arrived at the job with a thorough knowledge of all the police agencies sharing jurisdiction with DPS. Callisto's reputation and personal relationships with officials in these organizations have been particularly helpful in implementing the kind of innovative programs he is known for. Orange Watch is a case in point. When Chancellor Nancy Cantor asked Callisto how the University could reduce crime in the immediate off-campus areas, Callisto worked with his leadership team to develop a plan to establish a regular DPS presence during the hours when students are most vulnerable. Having SU officers step over campus boundaries onto city streets may sound simple, but similar plans have failed elsewhere over jurisdictional disputes. Well aware of this, Callisto met separately with Syracuse police officials and union leaders, laying out the plan and letting them know the intention was to assist their efforts, not take jobs or reduce services. "I assured them that our officers, in uniform and in marked vehicles, would act as eyes and ears for city police," he says. Callisto has since moved ahead with a variety of crime-prevention measures. A closed circuit television system, fed by 106 cameras thus far, is up and running, monitored around the clock in the DPS Communications Center.  The Shuttle-U-Home and Safety Marshal Escort services, offering students DPS safety escorts from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., have increased capacity. The Orange Alert System, a crisis notification network, has been enhanced with outdoor sirens. "We're going over to a new radio system that will give our officers access to city, county, and state officers on the radios they carry on their persons and in their vehicles," Callisto says. 

Callisto, who is known to Syracuse pop music fans as a trumpet and saxophone player, has been honored for a list of professional and community service activities, impressive in both variety and length. An inductee of the New York State Correctional Trainers Association Hall of Fame, he is a recipient of the Syracuse/Onondaga County Human Rights Commission Award as well. A past president of the American Jail Association, he currently heads the Food Bank of Central New York and, since January, the Central New York Association of Chiefs of Police. "It's a great personal honor," says Callisto, the first chief of a university force to lead the association. "But I also think it speaks to our position in the law enforcement community as a recognized agency that is providing leadership to the region."—David Marc