The public scrutinized candidates for Youngstown State University’s next police chief during open interviews last week.
A search committee is deciding among Michael Machon, a retired police chief; John Beshara, a captain at the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office; and Mark Hall, police chief of Clarion Borough in Pennsylvania.
The candidates are charged with protecting a campus in a city that saw 569 violent crimes and 4,143 property crimes last year.
Joseph Mosca, a member of the search committee and dean of the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services, said the interviewing process is complete, and the search committee is now conducting reference checks.
Mosca said the university will soon announce the successor to former YSU Police Chief John Gocala.
Machon was born in Canton and retired as police chief of Milford, Ohio, in February 2011. He served there for six years and has been in the business for 30 years. He said he hopes to apply his experience at YSU.
“The university is about the education,” Machon said. “We want [students] to feel safe while being educated.”
Machon has also worked at Central State University, where one of the biggest problems was underage drinking on campus, he said.
There, Machon worked with the Wilberforce Police Department to divert the buses and shuttles that connected the university and the bars. He said eliminating the bus routes cut down on disorderly behavior and theft at night.
Machon said he brings technical and managerial expertise to the job.
He said he would use the YSU Police Department Facebook page to communicate and make the community safer.
Machon also plans on being proactive in the community by further strengthening the partnership with the YSU Police Department to protect the community.
“Parents have assumptions that [if] they’re sending their children to school in an urban setting, they’re not going to be safe, and that’s just not the truth,” Machon said.
He added that his experience as a police chief makes him the man for the job.
“I know how to do the business of policing,” Machon said. “I am very capable in terms of the technical side but also the management. I pride myself in keeping up with the technical side as well as the leadership side of the business.”
Beshara, a Mahoning County sheriff, worked at the YSU Police Department for 23 years, and said he looks forward to returning to campus. He also attended the FBI National Academy.
He said his connections and friendships made around campus would not interfere with his duties.
“The job comes first,” Beshara said.
He said he believes his familiarity with the campus would benefit the community.
“I am very well versed on the geography of this university,” Beshara said. “I know the staff and the administrators. I know all of the law enforcement officers downtown.”
He would like to improve the department’s technology by investing in scanners that can read license plates on moving vehicles.
Beshara said license scanners are “relatively inexpensive” and would be a worthwhile addition.
“This way, we would know who is going through campus 24 hours a day,” Beshara said.
Beshara plans to ensure safety by communicating with various campus departments and working closely with Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley.
“Rod is a very good friend of mine, but first and foremost, he is a professional colleague,” Beshara said.
He also said he knows every police chief in Mahoning County and would utilize those relationships.
“It’s always a challenge to keep a campus safe,” Beshara said. “I’m not going to wait for you to knock on my door; I’m going to be knocking on your door and asking what we can do for you.”
Hall was unavailable for comment on Monday and refused to comment last week.
John Hyden, executive director of facilities, attended all three interviews, and said it’s important for facilities to have a strong relationship with the police department.
“If they see something that we need to know about, they’re responsive and vice versa,” Hyden said.
He said that all of the candidates are qualified for the position.
“Each of them have redeeming qualities to bring to the table,” Hyden said.