Retired Detective Brings 20 Years of Experience to the Classroom
Meet Lisa Dadio ’87, ’88, ’92 M.S., director of the University of New Haven’s Center for Advanced Policing, a senior lecturer, and a former New Haven Police Department lieutenant, who is now helping to train the next generation of law enforcement professionals.
July 8, 2021
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
She got her start as a Charger, earning two degrees in law enforcement administration from the University of New Haven. A cheerleader for three years as an undergraduate student, she was grateful for the relationships she had with her professors – many of whom had significant experience in the field as police chiefs or FBI agents, for example.
Prof. Dadio later earned her master’s degree in forensic science from the University, taking courses with professors such as world-renowned forensic scientist Dr. Henry C. Lee.
“Attending graduate school at the University was amazing,” she said. “I learned so much from Dr. Lee. My professors brought in medical examiners and lawyers who were working in the field, so it was professionals in the field who were teaching us. For me, that was so important.”
Prof. Dadio started in the police academy the day after graduating with her master’s degree. She was hired by the New Haven Police Department, retiring as a lieutenant after 20 years of service, including spending more than 16 years in the department’s detective bureau. She was involved with many high-profile cases, including that which became known as the case of the "East Coast rapist."
You can’t work in this field, no matter where you are in it, unless you know how to work as part of a team.Lisa Dadio ’87, ’88, ’92 M.S.
"I'm blessed because of the experience I had in New Haven," said Prof. Dadio, who also earned a Master of Social Work from Southern Connecticut State University. "You see things that happen in movies, but they happen in real life. I was forever changed. I was definitely not the same person who initially went through the door as when I left. None of us are."
'One of the key takeaways is teamwork'
As a member of the New Haven PD, Prof. Dadio investigated horrific crimes, including sexual assault cases, domestic violence, and child abuse. The most high-profile case she investigated was the murder of Annie Le, a Yale graduate student who disappeared just days before she was to be married.
Working closely with other law enforcement professionals, including those with the FBI and the Connecticut State Police, Prof. Dadio and her fellow investigators were quickly able to solve the case, and the suspect was later convicted and sentenced to 44 years in prison. Prof. Dadio was recognized by the Connecticut State Police and personally thanked by the special agent in charge of the FBI’s New Haven field office for her work on the case.
“We worked as a team, literally working this case around the clock with hardly any sleep for a week,” said Prof. Dadio. “We were sleeping in the FBI building in New Haven, just going home to shower and change our clothes.
“The case was intriguing,” she continued. “Never in our lives had we experienced something like that, from the horrific aspects of what happened to Annie, the hiding of evidence, and the bizarre things the perpetrator did to try to throw us off. Being recognized for my work on the case was incredible.”
Prof. Dadio, who has a weekly appearance on CourtTV analyzing current cases, has done numerous media interviews about the Annie Le investigation, including “Forensic Files” and an interview on the podcast “Crime Waves with Declan Hill.”
“I talk about the Annie Le case in the classroom a lot,” said Prof. Dadio, who has also served as coordinator of the University’s master’s degree program in forensic technology. “Forensically and investigatively, there are a lot of learning points. One of the key takeaways is teamwork. You can’t work in this field, no matter where you are in it, unless you know how to work as part of a team. A lot of what you do is talk to people.”
'We have the connections... to become the go-to place for all of this type of training'
A former certified law enforcement instructor in Connecticut who has taught in areas such as domestic violence and investigations, Prof. Dadio also serves as director of the University’s Center for Advanced Policing. This role enables her to train current law enforcement professionals as well as her students. She organizes training sessions and conferences for professionals, using her intimate knowledge of policing and her expertise as a teacher and instructor to help them develop their skills.
Prof. Dadio’s most recent work with the New Haven Police Department, which focuses on shifting underlying perceptions and attitudes to change behaviors – and has been supported by a grant – endeavors to help improve police-community relationships. She hopes to expand her training to the New London and Hartford police departments. She describes her work as not teaching but as “leading a discussion.”
Before the pandemic, she and her fellow experts held twice-yearly regional detective trainings at the University, during which law enforcement professionals spent a full day at the University’s crime scene house. Prof. Dadio is looking forward to hosting these sessions again since, she says, the in-person interactions between the professionals are critical, enabling them to learn from each other.
Excited to expand the training sessions offered by the Center for Advanced Policing, Prof. Dadio has seen a great deal of interest from police departments and law enforcement professionals, as well as from her colleagues at the University who are eager to get involved. She plans to offer new programs, including leadership training, officer wellness programming, and investigations instrument training, and she hopes to get the community involved in these sessions.
“We’re growing so much in regard to the amazing things that are happening in law enforcement,” she said. “We should be the leaders in delivering training throughout the state of Connecticut. We have the connections – inside and outside the University – to become the go-to place for this type of training.”
'I want to give back to the profession that has given me so much'
A passionate educator, Prof. Dadio shares real-life stories about her experiences to teach her students what to do – or what not to do – while investigating a crime scene.
“Students are able to learn because I bring up cases and discuss how they were solved by applying what they learn in the classroom,” she explained. “It’s been a whirlwind for me coming back to the University because it’s home, it’s where my passion for investigations started. To be able to be back full-time is surreal. Sharing my passion for criminal justice and investigations with my students has been amazing. I develop a bond with them, and seeing them get their dream jobs is incredible.”
Although retired from the New Haven Police Department, Prof. Dadio remains devoted to the city. She and her husband regularly give back to the community, donating winter clothing, school supplies, and Thanksgiving dinner to families in need, for example. She also shows her support to her former colleagues, sending pizza to the police department to express her support and gratitude for the work the department continues to do.
“The current environment of policing in the country right now is volatile,” she said. “The profession is getting hit hard by all sides. I helped when I became a police officer by serving victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. I have helped my students, and now I want to give back to the profession that has given me so much. It’s through the University and the Center for Advanced Policing that I can do that.”