New police chief steps into role this week

New University of Minnesota Police Department chief Matt Clark poses in the Transportation and Safety Building on Monday. Clark, who has served on the Minneapolis Police Department for more than two decades, will now lead the 50 members of the UMPD as well as the University's Public Safety Communications Center.

Juliet Farmer

New University of Minnesota Police Department chief Matt Clark poses in the Transportation and Safety Building on Monday. Clark, who has served on the Minneapolis Police Department for more than two decades, will now lead the 50 members of the UMPD as well as the University’s Public Safety Communications Center.

Elizabeth Smith

Just more than a month after his hiring announcement, Matt Clark joined the University of Minnesota Police Department Monday as its new chief.
 
Clark, a 22-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department,  took over for former police chief Greg Hestness, who announced his retirement last October after 12 years with UMPD. Clark said his first priority as new police chief will be to form close relationships with the University’s safety officials and leaders in the surrounding neighborhoods.
 
Shane Zahn, director of safety initiatives for the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, worked with Clark when he oversaw the First Precinct and again with Clark in his most recent position with the city as assistant police chief.
 
“He doesn’t try and just fix problems for communities; he gets everybody together to fix problems, which gives everyone an active responsibility to keep their communities safe,” Zahn said. “He brings everybody to the table and takes a collaborative approach.”
 
Clark has held a variety of positions with MPD, ranging from officer to assistant police chief. In his first years of policing, Clark worked in the rural southern
Minnesotan cities Madelia and Lake Crystal, where he said he first learned the importance of communicating with community members.
 
“In my first jobs, there was no back-up,” Clark said. “I had to learn how to talk with people in the community, and I think that’s something that has carried over well.”
 
Public safety at the University is made up of several working parts, Clark said, including the officers themselves, dispatchers and neighborhood members. He said he
wants to communicate with each group before implementing any major changes.
 
Clark has also worked with national organizations, police officers and other contributors in the past to coordinate security at major events.
 
When the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held in Minneapolis in 2014, Clark organized the event’s security with the league and Target Field officials.
 
Dave Horsman, senior director of ballpark operations for the Minnesota Twins, worked closely with Clark in the year leading up to the game. 
 
“He gave every agency at every level the ability to speak up and contribute,” Horsman said. “As a result, the coordination was phenomenal, and I give that credit almost entirely to Chief Clark and the Minneapolis Police Department.”
 
Clark turned down a police chief position in Washington because he said it didn’t fit his family’s wishes, but when the position opened at the University, he said joining its police force was a “no-brainer.”
 
“Based on my experience in working with him, it’s a great thing for the University of Minnesota Police Department,” Horsman said. 
 
A committee of 10 members comprised of University students, staff and both a current and retired police chief helped narrow down the applicants to the four finalists from which Clark was chosen.
 
The committee’s undergraduate student representative, Mike Ampaabeng, said the group met five times beginning in January to discuss each candidates’ strengths and weaknesses.
 
Out of the four candidates, Clark showed the most interest in connecting with student groups and meeting their needs, Ampaabeng said. 
 
As president of the University’s chapter of the Black Student Union, the information technology infrastructure  senior has been active in expressing the group’s concerns to UMPD, like racial descriptions in crime alerts.
 
“I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s able to do and being able to work with him,” Ampaabeng said. “I have a really positive outlook on it.”