W&J College hires new police chief

May 15, 2014
Washington & Jefferson College has selected Canonsburg native Robert Cocco as its new director of campus and public safety. - Photo courtesy of W&J

Washington & Jefferson College this week welcomed a Canonsburg native and long-time U.S. marshal to head the school’s campus police department.

Robert Cocco, 50, began his first day as the director of protection services Monday following a long career in law enforcement that took him to Washington, D.C., and back.

He replaces longtime protection services director Ed Cochran, who retired in December after serving in that capacity since 2001.

“I feel very fortunate and am very honored for the college to hire me to represent their public safety department,” Cocco said.

Cocco graduated from Canon-McMillan High School in 1982 and later attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He began his law enforcement career with the U.S. Supreme Court police in Washington, D.C., in 1986 and was responsible for the personal protection of the justices and patrols in and around the court. He later spent time as a U.S. National Park Service police officer before moving to the marshals service in 1991.

He returned to Pittsburgh in 1993 and most recently worked as a supervisory deputy marshal before retiring from the agency April 30. Cocco is quickly getting acquainted to the new job as the college prepares for commencement ceremonies Saturday.

“It’s been a whirlwind week,” he said.

His law enforcement career is coming full circle after he worked as a special deputy for the Washington County sheriff’s office while in high school. It was during that time assisting deputies with their daily tasks he first became interested in working in law enforcement.

“That really sparked my interest,” Cocco said. “This was my beginning here and it’s always felt like home to me.”

Cocco lives with his family in Washington County, so the opportunity to work at W&J College came at a perfect time as his career with the marshals was winding down. He said he’s looking forward to working with the staff and faculty, and wants to be approachable to build a partnership with them on campus.

Cocco added that his work in the federal government led to many trips to college and university campuses, which he thinks will make his experience a good fit for W&J.

“Working closely with police and security departments at these schools sparked my interest in this opportunity at W&J,” Cocco said of his time with the marshal service. “I preferred working in a small, private liberal arts college setting.”

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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