Olivia Daniels ‘19 and Laura Dunnagan ’19
After a year as editors-in-chief of The Davidsonian, we gained particular appreciation for one member of the Davidson community. Campus Police Chief Dr. Todd Sigler is known to many for his role in campus safety. He is, however, also an academic, an FBI-trained professional, a father, a grandfather, and an advocate for improved communication and equity in campus safety initiatives.
Born in Colorado, Sigler was raised in the Chicago suburbs. A true Chicago sports fan, Sigler joked with photographer Olivia Forrester ‘22 about her D.C. ice hockey allegiances. Sigler wasn’t a bad kid growing up, he just needed direction. Hoping to be as far from home as possible while still reaping the benefits of in-state tuition, he headed to Carbondale, Illinois, to attend Southern Illinois University (SIU).
Sigler began his academic career at SIU as a “very typical college student.” He admits that he was more focused on the social aspects of undergraduate life. He recalls that when he received his first-year grades, he “said ‘that’s not acceptable effort’ and turned it around.” His undergraduate degree in Administration of Justice would the first of three degrees he would earn at SIU.
As an undergraduate, Sigler joined SIU’s Saluki Patrol, a student branch of law enforcement assigned to special events and residential patrols. Through this experience he realized, “without the power of arrest…you’d better be able to communicate, because you don’t really have anything else that you can rely on…and I think that’s where I really found the value in policing in a way in which you have to be able to talk with folks…You have to be able to communicate, and you don’t have to arrest anybody.”
Upon graduation in 1984, Sigler worked professionally for SIU’s Campus Police for several years. When his wife grew ill, his young family, which now included a son, moved to St. Louis for her medical treatment. Sigler spent many of his days working on his SIU master’s thesis in public affairs from her hospital room. When his wife passed away eight months later, Sigler and his five-year-old son moved to be closer to his family in Chicago. Sigler took a job with the Secretary of State Police in Illinois, “an agency of about two hundred investigators that focuses on vehicle code.” The body handled titling issues and car theft among other concerns.
He had not shaken his love of campus security, however, and returned to SIU a few years later for what would become a thirty year career. There, he served in a variety of fields, including the bomb unit, crime prevention, evidence analysis, and more. In 2004, he was promoted to Chief of Police at SIU.
After remarrying and adding a daughter to his family, Sigler continued pursuing his love of learning. Starting even before his ascension to the head of the department, Sigler worked on a PhD in Educational Administration. This was unusual in Sigler’s field, in which the terminal degree was typically a master’s. Balancing his full-time job with the program and family life was difficult. He often took one class at time, and he remembers: “I literally finished work at 5 or 5:30, sometimes later, and I would go to the library until midnight.”
In 2011, Sigler completed his dissertation and was awarded his degree. His final product was entitled “Collective Behavior and Campus Public Order Policing: A Qualitative Case Study of Mixed-Issue Campus Disturbances at Three Midwest Public Universities.” He describes his research as investigating “convivial celebratory riots on college campuses and the interactions with campus police.” In other words, Sigler was studying Frolics before he even got to Davidson.
As Sigler pursued his academic interests, he also participated in extensive professional training. In 1997, Sigler attended the FBI National Academy for a three month training program in Quantico, Virginia. To qualify, he needed to pass a rigorous background check and physical fitness test. The course included twelve hours of academic credit at the University of Virginia, which included classes on behavioral analysis, media relations, and evidence. Classmates included Cathy Lanier, who would go on to become Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. He reflects upon the experience as “a career highlight.”
In 2013, Sigler was ready to move on from SIU and retired. After a month and a half, however, he knew he wanted to return to work. Sigler was about to accept a teaching position, when the job at Davidson opened. Sigler took the helm as Campus Police Chief in January 2014.
After his retirement, Sigler admits he was disillusioned with the policing profession due to events like Ferguson. The dynamics at Davidson, however, encouraged him to believe in helpful, communicative partnerships. Reflecting on his decision to move south, Sigler credits Davidson’s students and campus culture.
“I was taken by the Honor Code,” he recalls, as well as “the caliber of student.” Having never enjoyed making arrests, he looked forward to reframing the relationships between law enforcement and communities. At Davidson, he says, that process is easier than at most places.
Sigler also appreciates how Davidson students hold themselves and campus law enforcement accountable: “I have been asked some questions about things in ways that challenge me, which is good. We should be challenged…I admire the way Davidson students…may not agree with the sanctions for their behavior, but they own their behavior. That’s refreshing.”
Sigler maintains that there are certainly challenges facing the Davidson community. “We are coming to a time when it is going to be difficult for Davidson to say ‘we are safe in our bubble’ because the outside is coming to Davidson, and I think Davidson students are bringing the outside into Davidson. This idea that we are in this insular environment, I don’t think we are going to be able to sustain that…I’m not sure that’s the best situation to have either. Maybe we need to have more of that contact.”
Today, Sigler encourages conversations within his department about mental health awareness and support, implicit biases, threat assessments, and mindfulness about students’ previous experiences with law enforcement. He says, “If damage was done by [our] profession, we have an obligation to repair that.”
Above all, Sigler is grateful to Davidson’s community and committed to enhancing safety and inclusivity for all members. He emphasizes, “I never want to lose an opportunity to let the student body know how much I appreciate them.”