James P. Sullivan

Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) radio dispatchers refer to officers by their badge numbers. Patrolman James P. Sullivan's badge is 01, but no dispatcher reads it "oh-one"--instead, he is known as "old one." The badge traditionally belongs to the longest-serving HUPD officer--now Sullivan, who joined in 1966. A life-long Cantabrigian, he began working at Harvard in 1964 as a mailroom clerk. Two years later, in an era when HUPD had one patrol car and no radios, Chief Robert Tonis hired him as a patrolman. Since then, he's seen four University presidents, six chiefs, four uniform styles, and countless improvements in training and equipment. He says that since he began patrolling, he's gotten himself a Harvard education person by person, building by building. He has witnessed most major events at Harvard in the last 35 years, from riots to visits by royalty and rock stars. (The avid sports fan, who has been going to Fenway Park since he was a "little kid," cites meeting Jackie Robinson as one of the best moments.) Now, under Chief Francis D. "Bud" Riley, HUPD has instituted community policing--a move Sullivan welcomes: he's been using wry humor and sage advice to do just that for almost four decades, making friends across the University. "Part of being a good police officer is being a human first," he explains. The Longwood substation, his base for the past four years, is a three-room suite dominated by a fish tank belonging to the station commander. It's peaceful in the tank now, but a tiny shark once ate a couple of other fish. When the shark got "belligerent," Sullivan says, officers removed him: "We don't want a hostile environment anywhere here--even if it's in a fish tank."

You might also like

The Roman Empire’s Cosmopolitan Frontier

Genetic analysis reveals a culture enriched from both sides of the Danube.

Tobacco Smoke and Tuberculosis

Harvard researchers illuminate a longstanding epidemiological connection. 

Discourse and Discipline

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences broaches two tough topics.

Most popular

Small-Town Roots

Professors’ humble beginnings, concentration choices, and a mini history of Harvard and Radcliffe presidents

Vita: Fanny Bullock Workman

Brief life of a feisty mountaineer: 1859-1925

Being Black at Work

Realizing the full potential of black employees

More to explore

Illustration of a box containing a laid-off fossil fuel worker's office belongings

Preparing for the Energy Transition

Expect massive job losses in industries associated with fossil fuels. The time to get ready is now.

Apollonia Poilâne standing in front of rows of fresh-baked loaves at her family's flagship bakery

Her Bread and Butter

A third-generation French baker on legacy loaves and the "magic" of baking

Illustration that plays on the grade A+ and the term Ai

AI in the Academy

Generative AI can enhance teaching and learning but augurs a shift to oral forms of student assessment.