Chief of police to focus on training, engagement

Matthew Clark has met with students and wants to start a beat-officer program on campus.

Rilyn Eischens

Newly appointed University of Minnesota Police Chief Matthew Clark is meeting with student leaders to garner feedback about his department and better serve the University community.   
As Clark settles into his new job, student leaders say they are excited about his engagement with the student body.  
He said he has met with members of the Professional Student Government, the Minnesota Student Association and the Council of Graduate Students. Input from student groups helps UMPD form long-term goals, Clark said. 
Jenna Larson, PSG’s secretary of communications said the organization is excited about Clark’s engagement with students, noting that his involvement on 
campus is a significant part of showing students he cares. 
“Students need to feel that they’re safe on campus and that … Chief Clark takes them seriously and that he’s interested in topics of importance to them,” she said.   
Clark said his main focus for the next few years will be on training in four areas: implicit bias, active threats, crisis interventions and crowd management.  
“Being up to date on all of our techniques and skills is important,” he said. 
While UMPD doesn’t currently have a beat officer program, Clark said he’d like to implement one to move more toward community-oriented policing. He said beat officers build beneficial relationships with community members because they patrol the same area on a day-to-day basis.  
“One of the strongest things that should happen on campus is … a strong beat officer program,” he said.  
Another focus area, implicit bias training, is especially relevant to police departments today, he said. 
“Even though you as an officer might say, ‘Listen, I don’t feel that I am biased against any group or organization or race,’ your mind will make decisions … that you’re not conscious of,” he said. “You need to be fair and impartial to all.” 
The most important parts of active threat preparation — situations that could include an active shooter — on campus are educating students and faculty members and coordinating with other law enforcement agencies around the University, Clark said.
“As a police department, we often are the first responders for crisis intervention,” he said.
Emphasizing effective de-escalation and communication skills for dealing with emergencies is another priority for Clark. 
Though 12 officers have completed crisis intervention training, Clark said wants to make sure all officers are certified. 
And since large groups of people gather at the University for everything from sporting events to protests, Clark said good crowd management is also important. 
MSA President Joelle Stangler said students generally want to have better relations with the police.
“Year to year there has to be a give-and-take between law enforcement and students,” she said. “We have to have a working relationship and understand where both parties are coming from.”