University appoints new police chief

Sarah McKenzie

A Justice Department supervisor will assume the position of University Police Chief at the end of this month.
George Aylward, 59, will take over for former police chief Joy Rikala, who stepped down in March to take a position as the Minnetonka director of public safety. Aylward’s first day is Aug. 30.
The international crime specialist has spent the past two-and-a-half years abroad, working in Albania and Liberia to help restructure the countries’ police organizations. He was selected from a pool of 40 applicants.
Aylward said the slot at the University piqued his interest even though he has spent most of his life on the East Coast. His family, including wife and two children, were also drawn to the Twin Cities.
“The (University’s) department has a good reputation,” he said. “When this position opened up, it met all of our needs.”
Aylward, who said he was attracted to the area schools, is preparing to move his family to an Uptown neighborhood near Lake Calhoun next week. “Right now, I am up to my neck in boxes,” he said.
Lt. Steve Johnson, who has served as acting police chief since Rikala’s departure, said he is glad that a candidate has finally been chosen.
The police department has seen a high turnover rate in the past year, both in the number of officers and administrators. Currently, 43 officers are on duty.
Besides working on criminal justice issues abroad, Aylward has 35 years of experience working for municipal police departments.
For more than 20 years, Aylward worked as a police officer and detective lieutenant in New York City. He later served as police chief in Middletown, Conn., from 1982 to 1997.
When asked about his experience working in academic setting, Aylward said the Middletown department often provided police service to Wesleyan University, where he also earned a master’s degree.
Aylward, however, earned mixed reviews from residents in the college town of 50,000.
According to a March 21 article in the Hartford Courant, Aylward presided over a police department that “openly expressed contempt” for police management.
His 15-year term was scarred by “four no-confidence votes, numerous grievances and difficult labor and community relations,” according to the newspaper.
In spite of the sour reviews, University officials have expressed confidence in Aylward’s abilities to lead the campus police department.
“He is an experienced, highly-regarded leader whose expertise and experience will undoubtedly benefit the police department and the entire University community,” said Mark Cox, interim assistant vice president for Health, Safety and Transportation, in a prepared statement.
The University held public forums in June and July designed to foster interest in the selection process. Four finalists were individually questioned during the meetings.
Other police chief candidates included a United Nations police commander, a Minneapolis police child abuse expert and a police administrator at a state university in Buffalo, New York.