SUNY New Paltz recently appointed the first female chief of the University Police Department since the agency’s conception 50 years ago.
On Jan. 2, the college sent an email to students notifying them of Mary Ritayik’s promotion to chief with the new year. Ritayik served as the interim chief for the department since May of 2018, following previous Chief David Dugatkin’s inexplicable leave of absence and eventual resignation. She joins only two other female chiefs in the entire state university police system.
“I am honored to have this opportunity to lead the men and women of UPD,” Ritayik said in the email. “My entire 20-year career in law enforcement has been within the ranks of the New York State University Police, and I look forward to moving the department forward and continuing our professional engagement with the campus community.”
The University Police Department operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, functioning the same as any other police department. Ritayik is now in charge of the 23 person team consisting of a Deputy Chief, an Investigator, four Lieutenants and 16 officers. They enforce all local, state, campus and federal laws, as well as handle parking enforcement and other matters.
“Gender equality is still an issue women are fighting today- especially in this political climate,” said fourth-year journalism major Maeve Allen. “I’m happy to hear that a woman was given a position that would have traditionally been given to a man. It’s about time!”
Ritayik has been with the SUNY system from the beginning. She secured a degree in sociology, with a concentration in criminology from SUNY Cortland, and went on to receive Top Grade while graduating the Westchester Police Academy.
In 1998, Ritayik officially began her career in law enforcement working for the NYS University Police at SUNY Purchase. She transferred to SUNY New Paltz in 2000 where she climbed the ranks to University Police Investigator in 2003. Ritayik was then promoted to Deputy Chief in 2013 where she stayed for five years.
As the new chief, Rityak has assisted in planning and organizing new simulations and drills aimed at educating the campus community and better preparing her officers. This includes a potential reality based active shooter training this summer, drills for the Emergency Management Team on campus and other educational discussions like internet safety. Additionally, she authored the annual Security and Fire Safety reports which include information like crime statistics and safety issues on campus.
“We have a lot of younger officers in the department, so I want to encourage them to bring new ideas to the table in a way to better connect with students and keep UPD current with the trends, such as our social media platforms,” Ritayik said. “University Police understand the educational goals that everyone has here on campus, from students trying to get their education to staff who run the campus, to faculty teaching our students, there is a common goal.”
Ritayik will be officially sworn into her position on Friday, Feb. 1 at 3:30 p.m. at the College Terrace.
“It means a lot to see a woman become this successful in a male dominated field,” said second-year geology major Camille Serecin. “It brings hope that one day it will no longer be seen as a hard task because she is a woman, but a hard task because she worked for the title she deserves.”