By Hugh McQuaid
New York City Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro will take the reins of the state Emergency Services and Public Protection Department as its first female commissioner, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Monday.
Schriro, who has an extensive background leading state and municipal prison systems, will replace current commissioner Reuben Bradford, whose departure was announced by the Malloy administration just two weeks ago.
Malloy called Schriro a “nationally recognized leader” in prison administration. She is the current commissioner of the New York City Correction Department and has led the Division of Corrections in the city of St. Louis. She’s also served as the head of state prison systems in Missouri and Arizona and has also held federal posts at the Homeland Security Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
At a press conference outside his state Capitol office, Malloy said Schriro was among the candidates he interviewed for state Correction Department commissioner — a job that went to interim head James Dzurenda in November. But he kept Schriro in mind and she was the sole candidate interviewed for the state public safety post.
“My conversation with [Schriro] was one of the most fascinating interviews that I’ve ever had . . . I keep kind of a ‘mental rolodex’ for jobs that may have to be filled at some time in the future. When it became evident that [Bradford] was thinking about calling it a day, I knew who I wanted,” Malloy said.
Schriro will need to be confirmed by lawmakers after the legislative session begins next month. Having worked all over the country, she said the similarities between communities outweigh the differences.
“In every community there are good people raising families and operating businesses, wanting to live free of crime and the fear of crime. In every place there are crime victims who want no one else to experience all they have endured,” she said.
And while she praised Bradford’s work as the department’s leader, Schriro said every community also has opportunities to improve and innovate their criminal justice systems. She said she plans to travel the state to meet with members of the department and the state’s communities to form a specific plan of action.
That was welcome news to Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews, who attended Monday’s press conference. The union has clashed with the Malloy administration and the department’s leadership recently over contract negotiations and an ongoing effort to consolidate state police dispatch throughout the state.
In 2012, members of the union took a symbolic vote of no confidence in Bradford and State Police Col. Danny Stebbins in large part because of the consolidation of the dispatch functions. The union recently held press conferences to raise public safety concerns over the continued merger of the centers from 12 statewide to five.
Matthews said Schriro seemed qualified for the job and he was encouraged by her willingness to listen.
“We are going to help her succeed and hearing her say that she is open to listening to us, is all we’ve been ever asking for. So we’re encouraged,” he said.
Matthews said he planned to encourage Schriro to scrap the efforts to merge the dispatch center.
“Look, we’re not asking for people to do what we want them to do, we’re for people to just listen to all sides and make the decision for herself,” he said.
Schriro did not speak directly to the dispatch center issue, but Malloy defended Bradford and Stebbins as having done “a great job.” He said he plans to keep Stebbins in his post and has maintained confidence in both of their leadership throughout their tenure.
“The incoming commissioner has a desire to take a look — get to know folks and systems and take a look at that. But I also believe she understands the necessity of modernizing these operations as well but I’ll have that discussion with her after she’s had some time to get to know these facilities,” he said.
Schriro, 63, will earn a salary of $178,000 a year. Malloy said he expects that she will begin working at the end of January.
In a statement, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women Executive Director Teresa Younger said the department has had a poor track record promoting and retaining women in leadership positions.
“So we welcome the appointment of Dora Schriro to this critical and highly visible appointment, and we look forward to working with her on policies and procedures that will help remedy gender inequity among the DESPP’s ranks and leadership,” Younger said.
According to the Malloy administration, Schriro also was the first woman to lead correction departments in both Arizona and Missouri.