Chancellor Malatras Swears in Mary Ritayik as the First Woman to Serve as Police Commissioner in SUNY History

October 26, 2021

Video and Photos of the Event Available Here and Here


Albany, NY
Today at the H. Carl McCall SUNY Building, State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras provided the oath of office to Mary Ritayik as the first woman to serve as New York State University Police Commissioner in SUNY history.

"Commissioner Ritayik has broken the ceiling for women in the university police, but she is also the right person for the job," said Chancellor Malatras. "She will build up community policing, which is what we need across SUNY for our students, and Commissioner Ritayik will continue to be an innovator in that area. It is with great pride that we join together to celebrate her achievement, and this historic moment at SUNY."

SUNY Board Trustee Robert J. Duffy said, "Commissioner Ritayik sets a strong example for young women who experience a lack of representation in their field, whether that be law enforcement, STEM fields of study, or even traditionally all-male sports. She has earned each role of increasing responsibility, and along the way has shown that she truly cares about the community she polices, making them feel safe and welcomed. Commissioner Ritayik is a champion for community policing, and we look forward to seeing her work to build on that model across SUNY."

Commissioner Ritayik said, "This is one of the most challenging times in law enforcement history, and right now we need to rebuild that police and community trust. We need to do better. It is through these positive interactions, community policing initiatives, and coming to the table to actively listen to what our communities expect of their police department that will help to foster this trust. I want to ensure that the strategies of our agency meet the needs of the communities we serve. I believe in the work that we do and that it does makes a difference."

The ceremony was attended by former university police commissioners; SUNY leadership; a representative from Governor Kathy Hochul's office; campus police chiefs; representatives from SUNY New Paltz where Commissioner Ritayik rose up through the ranks, including President Don Christian and Vice President of Student Affairs Stephanie Blaisdell; and her family.

VIDEO of the entire ceremony available here

PHOTOS from today's event available here

Commissioner Ritayik's Full Speech:

"Vice President Blaisdell, President Christian, and Dr. McBride, thank you for your kind words, and Chancellor Malatras, thank you for the confidence you have expressed in me to lead the New York State University Police as Commissioner. And, thank you for those who put together this ceremony as well.

I thank my colleagues here at System Administration for taking the time out of their busy schedules to be here, as well as the members of the New York State University Police from across the state who are in attendance here today, including previous University Police Commissioners Bruce McBride, Paul Berger, and Frank Lawrence.

I want to especially thank my New Paltz family for being here, as they have been an integral part of my career journey, including the members of the New Paltz University Police Department, as well as President Don Christian, Chief of Staff Shelly Wright, and Vice President Stephanie Blaisdell. New Paltz will always have a special place in my heart. It was my home, the place that provided me the career opportunities of police officer, investigator, deputy chief, acting chief, and finally, chief of police. Opportunities that helped pave the way for this point in my career today, as commissioner of University Police. I thank you for those opportunities. New Paltz was also the place where I met my husband and where we worked together for 21 years, mostly opposite shifts… which is how we have survived this long together.

And finally, I'd like to thank my own personal family for being here. For my parents, thank you for always supporting me and being there throughout my career, as well as teaching me that hard work will get you far in life. I especially want to thank my husband who has supported and encouraged me at each and every step in my career ladder, pushing me to see myself in these positions, when at times I sometimes doubted if I could handle those responsibilities, so thank you.

I started my career in university policing 23 years ago at SUNY Purchase. I was fortunate enough to have a female field training officer, as well as a female lieutenant supervisor. When I transferred to New Paltz, again, I worked with other female officers, a supervisor, and a female investigator. It wasn't until later in my career that I realized how much of an impact that had on how I envisioned my future career aspirations. I am forever indebted to the women who have broken those glass ceilings before me, paving that path for women like myself to achieve positions like this today.

I realized early in my career how fortunate it was that I found myself among a diverse group of officers, who accepted a female among their ranks. It wasn't always easy, and you do develop a thick skin. But what I also found was that I liked the way things were done in university policing. It was different, unique, and things were done far ahead of what we see being done today in law enforcement. Community policing is the backbone of what we do each and every day, and have been doing for decades. We trained ourselves in mental health awareness, fair and impartial policing, and techniques of de-escalation far before they became required courses of instruction mandated for all police agencies. We saw a need for these on our campuses and worked with our communities to better understand the problems our students were facing. Problems that continually change from generation to generation over time. It was these experiences and how university policing approached them that made me decide this is where I want to stay.

University police officers serve a different clientele that has an educational mission. We provide that safety and security so that mission is achieved. Whether it be for a student, faculty, staff, parent, or alum. Our role on that campus is to provide that protection, but we as officers also have a role in that educational mission. Maybe not in the classroom, but in how we help these young individuals mature into responsible adults. Having the ability to help divert someone and send them down the right path is a great feeling. In addition, for some of our students, this is the first time away from home, and perhaps their first time interacting with law enforcement. It is at these critical interactions that we can help determine whether or not someone walks away with a better understanding of what we do or walk away hating cops. A campus is a collaborative environment that lends itself to opportunities to make positive interactions with our communities, build better relationships, and work together with various diverse individuals.

This is one of the most challenging times in law enforcement history, and right now we need to rebuild that police and community trust. We need to do better. It is through these positive interactions, community policing initiatives, and coming to the table to actively listen to what our communities expect of their police department that will help to foster this trust. I want to ensure that the strategies of our agency meet the needs of the communities we serve. I believe in the work that we do and that it does makes a difference.

To the almost 600 members of the NYS University police, from chiefs, deputy chiefs, assistant chiefs, inspectors, lieutenants, tech sergeants, patrol officers, dispatchers, and security assistants, I thank you for your support in this new role. I pledge to continually advocate for our members. I know what it is like... trust me. I am also married to a Lieutenant, so talking shop, doesn't end at the end of my work day. From the times of being out of contract, underpaid, a 30-yr/age-55 retirement plan at one point, or waiting for that upgrade, I have also lived it and also know the sacrifices you make and the stresses you are under. Officer wellness is extremely important to me. We have come to work each and every day throughout this pandemic. We need to take care of ourselves and be able to not only go home at the end of our shift, but go home healthy, both physically and mentally. I will also pledge to be a strong advocate of adequate staffing, extensive training, and budget resources necessary to allow you to safely and effectively perform your duties.

I thank you for this opportunity, and I look forward to leading the men and women of the NYS University police.

Thank you."

About Commissioner Mary Ritayik

Commissioner Ritayik was appointed in May 2021. Previously, she was Chief of University Police at SUNY New Paltz. She is the first woman to hold the position of chief in the 50-year history of the SUNY New Paltz University Police Department. At the time of her appointment, she was one of only three females to hold the rank of chief in the entire New York State University Police system.

As chief, Ritayik had been central to efforts to engender a culture of campus law enforcement and emergency response that is measured, effective, equitable, and transparent. She helped plan and implement new drills and simulations aimed at educating the campus community and improving officers' response skills, and also authored the College's annual Security and Fire Safety Reports.

She started her career in 1998 at the NYS University Police at SUNY Purchase, transferred to New Paltz in 2000, was promoted to university police investigator in 2003, and assumed the newly created role of deputy chief of police in 2013. Ritayik is a career law enforcement professional who holds a degree in sociology with a concentration in criminology from SUNY Cortland, and earned the Top Grade as a graduate of Westchester County Police Academy.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit suny.edu.


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