BRADFORD, Pa. -- Richard Harsen, a veteran Bradford City Police officer with 34 years of law enforcement experience, will succeed Dan Songer as chief of police at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.
Harsen served 32 years with the Bradford City Police, many of those as a juvenile officer and school resource officer, before joining the Pitt-Bradford police force as a full-time officer in 2015.
“I’m delighted that Officer Harsen emerged as the finalist for the position of police chief on our campus,” said Dr. Livingston Alexander, president of Pitt-Bradford.
“His extensive law enforcement experience, calm and pleasant demeanor, and demonstrated ability to build positive relationships between law enforcement and the various student groups served by police officers make him the ideal choice for the position.”
Harsen’s record with Pitt-Bradford extends back to 2005, however, when he began working as a part-time officer with the campus police.
Harsen said he has long hoped he might have the opportunity to lead the department because he enjoys working with young people.
In addition to his work as the juvenile officer and middle school resource officer, he coached youth softball, baseball, football and basketball for 18 years. While with the city police, he and then-colleague Dominic Cercone began the city’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
“Teaching in the DARE program recharged me as a police officer,” Harsen said. “Students met me in a position that wasn’t threatening.” That was in direct contrast to the circumstances under which he often met children while working the night shift for 23 years.
Harsen said he worked to build rapport with students through the DARE program so that they would see police officers as people who could help if they had trouble, not people to be afraid of.
That is at the heart of what he hopes to continue on campus, following in Songer’s footsteps.
“I’ve observed Chief Songer’s policing methods over several years. When he shows up, students see him as someone who can help.
“For many students, it is their first time away from home. At times poor decisions will be made. My objective is to get them through it and back on track.”
Harsen plans to work closely with the campus’s resident assistants, who are often the first point of contact for students who need help. He also has been trained in interviewing techniques for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
“I can’t think of a situation that I haven’t been in during 34 years of police work,” he said.
Harsen will supervise eight full-time and eight part-time commissioned police officers as well as two communications room personnel.
He and his wife, Deborah, live in Bradford and have three grown children.
Songer retires today (Jan. 6) after 20 years as chief at Pitt-Bradford.
Deborah Harsen pins chief’s collar insignia on her husband, Richard, who is the new chief of campus police at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. At right is Dr. Livingston Alexander, president of Pitt-Bradford. (Photo by Ashley Young)