You are here

Public Safety Institute

The Mercyhurst University Public Safety Institute is the primary provider of public safety training in the region. Headquartered at the Mercyhurst North East campus, the Public Safety Institute meets a vital need in today's society: training and educating public safety personnel including police officers, medical first responders, constables, corrections officers, probation and parole agents, firefighters, and public safety and criminal justice professionals. Not only does the PSI train those wishing to enter the public safety field, but also works with local and regional law enforcement, civic and public safety organizations to provide ongoing training and certifications to current practitioners.

The PSI also provides a number of services and public safety consulting to businesses and industries to ensure that their employees, operations procedures and facilities are safe, effective and successful.

Academic opportunities

  • Criminal justice associate degree programs at Mercyhurst North East

Training and certification programs

  • Municipal Police Academy (Act 120)
  • Firefighter training (Fire Academy)
  • Corrections Academy
  • Lethal Weapons training (Act 235)
  • In-service police training (Act 180)
  • Emergency management and preparedness training

Business and industry services

  • Training and assistance to private industries and businesses


Academic Programs

Training and Certification Programs
Municipal Police Academy
Lethal Weapons Training
Corrections Training
In-service Police Training
Fire Academy

Academic programs

Criminal Justice

In addition to its law enforcement, fire and other public safety training programs, the Public Safety Institute also offers instruction in another vital field: criminal justice. The associate degree program in criminal justice offered at Mercyhurst North East, with concentrations in crime and intelligence analysis and law enforcement, prepares students for careers in this high demand field. Learn more about the criminal justice program.

The degree can also be coupled with the Municipal Police Training Academy, which upon successful completion awards students Act 120 certification, required to become a municipal police officer in Pennsylvania.

Plus, all credits will transfer to virtually any four-year college or university, should students decide to take their education even further. The Mercyhurst Erie campus offers bachelor's degrees in criminal justice, as well as a master's degree in criminal justice administration.


Training Programs

The Mercyhurst University Public Safety Institute is the regional leader in public safety training, both for future and current law enforcement, fire and emergency personnel. Its Municipal Police Training Academy is one of only 16 in the state where cadets can earn Act 120 certification . The PSI also offers Act 180 certification, a mandatory in-service training for current police officers, and a Corrections Academy for current and future corrections officers.  

And emergency service personnel can earn necessary certifications through the Public Safety Institute.



The Mercyhurst University Public Safety Institute is the primary provider of public safety instruction in the region, training current and future personnel involved in emergency services, law enforcement, and fire service.

But the Institute's commitment to public safety does not end there. The PSI provides training and assistance to private industries and businesses to ensure that their employees, operations procedures and facilities are safe, effective and successful.

PSI Services:

Building/property security assessments: An unbiased evaluation of building conditions and operating systems.

Crime prevention education: Instruction on the techniques, community activities and available resources to prevent criminal activity in or around your business.

Defensive tactics for female employees: Education and training in rape prevention, self-defense and personal protection for women.

Grant writing/proposals: Assistance in identifying, developing, implementing and evaluating grant opportunities.

Leadership/supervisory: Training in the concepts, principals and skills needed to be a successful supervisor.

Employee background checks: Provides assistance in performing employee background checks, criminal record checks and verification.

Policy/procedures composition: Assistance in developing standard operating procedures and internal control policies.

Process evaluations/gap analysis: Provides assessment tools that enable businesses to compare its actual performance with its potential performance.

Retail theft prevention/education: Provides information on loss prevention and security to prevent customer and employee theft, and presents statistics, security data and reports to reduce retail shrinkage problems.

Career Development Retreats: Offered for personal development, careerworkshops, and conferences.

Strategic planning: Provides assistance with defining the direction of an organization and deciding how to allocate resources to optimize results.

Terrorism risk assessment/response and emergency services support:Provides warning signs, perpetrator profiles and preventative measures to recognize and respond to possible terroristic and emergency situations.



Art Amann, Ed.D., director of the Public Safety Institute, holds a doctorate in higher education leadership and a master's degree in criminal justice. He is the former warden and chief adult probation/parole officer for Erie County. In addition to his work with thePSI, Dr. Amann is a faculty member in the Mercyhurst University criminal justice program.
Phone: (814) 725-6230

Bill Hale, director of the Municipal Police Academy and manager of Law Enforcement Training, holds a master's degree in administration of justice from Mercyhurst University and a master's of business administration from the University of Phoenix. A retired Millcreek Township police officer, Hale has also worked as a consultant in the area of intelligence analysis and policy assessment for various federal, state and local criminal justice agencies. He is a member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. His responsibilities with PSI include operations related to the Police Academy and providing technical support and training to area law enforcement agencies.
Phone: (814) 725-6137

David Rockwell, manager, Northwest PA Emergency Response Group. David received his BS in Education from Slippery Rock University and Master's Degree from Gannon University. He has also served as an adjunct instructor at Mercyhurst and Gannon. He is the former chief adult probation officer for Erie County, the first Megan's Law director in Pennsylvania, and a former administrator with the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole.
Phone: (814) 725-6382

John Villa, physical training instructor and defensive tactics instructor for municipal police academy and training manager for Emergency Services for the PSI, is a retired United States Navy cryptologist and an active member of Neighborhood Watch. His responsibilities include scheduling and facilitating all activities generated through PSIand the Center, as well as fiscal/budgetary reports.
Phone: (814) 725-6240

Christine Swartwood, administrative assistant for the Public Safety Institute, has an associate degree in office management and a bachelor's degree in business administration, both from Mercyhurst University. She handles administrative duties in all areas of the Police Academy and Police Update class and assists when and where needed in other areas of the PSI.
Phone: (814) 725-6121

MNE Criminal Justice Faculty

Ray Sobina, is an instructor of both criminal justice and sociology at MNE. He earned his B.A. in criminal justice from Gannon University and an M.S. in corrections administration/treatment from Youngstown State University. After 32 years of service, he retired from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Previously, he served as superintendent at three of the largest men's prisons in the commonwealth; SCISomerset, SCI Forest and SCI Albion. During his stay in Somerset, Mr. Sobina served on the foundation board for Allegany College of Maryland/Somerset Campus and was an adjunct instructor in criminal justice for eight years.
Phone: (814) 725-6315 

Steve Szwejbka, director of the Mercyhurst North East criminal justice program, and assistant professor of criminal justice at MNE, received his master's degree from Mercyhurst University and his bachelor's degree from Buffalo State. Steve is currently a doctoral student. He worked as a police officer for 21 years before joining Mercyhurst.
Phone: (814) 725-6122

Dr. Pete Yaksick, most recently earned a Master of Science and dual Certificates of Advanced Study at Johns Hopkins University in Neuroeducation and Adult Learning. As part of his Johns Hopkins studies, he completed a post-doctoral internship at Colgate University. At Colgate he lectured in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. He completed his Doctoral Internship also at Johns Hopkins in the late 1980’s. His Doctorate in Urban Educational Planning and Social Policy was awarded from Morgan State University. His B.A. and M.A. in Political Science were earned at Edinboro University.  Prior to joining Mercyhurst, Dr. Yaksick worked as a broadcast journalist, primarily covering crime and investigative stories at various television network affiliates in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Connecticut. During his thirteen year stint in Television News, he earned awards for covering educational issues in Pittsburgh and West Virginia. He has also presented at conferences on the topic of "Crime and the Media".  Currently he is engaged in research on Fear, Frustration, Anxiety and Threat Appraisals in relation to Perceptions of Instructional Communication. In addition, he's developed a learning ownership plan titled "A Developmental, Cognitive and Socio-Emotional Approach to Learning Awareness". Also referred to as the ASAP Initiative (All Students Academically Primed), it attempts to educate at-risk college students as to how they can take control of their academic pursuits by gaining reference points or a perspective of where they stand developmentally in the life span. It also provides a cursory review of how learning takes place neurologically (neuroplasticity, axon-dendrite connectivity, proximal and distal goal setting, etc.), and how this is all vastly emotionally and experientially driven. Also "social bonding" implications are covered as to how commitment, involvement, belief and attachment to mainstream / conventional values are seen as the conduit to later life success.  Dr. Yaksick served six years as President of the Mercyhurst North East Faculty Senate. He holds membership to the American Criminology Society, Society for Social Neuroscience and the Pennsylvania Criminal Justice Educators Association. He is an active member of the Johns Hopkins Neuro-Education Initiative, and is a Lifetime member of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association.  An avid sports fan and former athlete at Edinboro, Pete was a four year member and letter winner as an offensive lineman for the Fighting Scots between 1981 and 1985. He was the starting nose guard for the Edinboro team that played internationally in Helsinki, Finland in the Spring of 1985. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates and Penguins are a big part of Pete's social life, as is "March Madness NCAA Basketball" and Mercyhurst, Penn State, Notre Dame and Colgate football.
Phone: (814) 725-6397