Four vying for top spot at UMPD

The finalists discussed their past experiences and goals for campus safety in public forums.

Alida Tieberg

Four finalists vying for the University of Minnesota police Department Chief position made their cases to the University community in hourlong presentations last week.

The finalists — Cmdr. Colleen Luna, Deputy Chief Chuck Miner, Capt. James Franklin and Assistant Chief Matthew Clark — discussed challenges facing campus safety, effective policing strategies and their experiences at individual public forums.

The Chief of Police Search Committee, consisting of administrators, experts and other University community members, conducted initial interviews earlier this month.

Vice President for University Services Pamela Wheelock will make the hiring decision. Because of the extensive background check for the position, she said she doesn’t know when a final decision will be made.

Current Police Chief Greg Hestness is retiring in June after nearly 40 years in law enforcement.

The finalists touted experience in their current jurisdictions, which include St. Paul, Minneapolis, Metro Transit and the University.

A different perspective

Finalists were asked to discuss how their work could translate to the University area.

For the most part, finalists said policing is the same in any jurisdiction, though there are differences — because of the University’s changing population and demographics — compared to their current areas.

St. Paul Police Cmdr. Colleen Luna’s presentation focused on the relationship between law enforcement and the community.

“We all want to feel safe. We all want to be secure,” Luna said in her presentation. “We want to know that both our persons and our property is ours, [and] it’s safe.”

Metropolitan Transit Capt. James Franklin said working for Metro Transit is similar to the University because officers in both areas serve a diverse population.

“We serve every diverse population in the entire metro area,” Franklin said.

Finalists said some of the differences between the jurisdictions are the type of crimes common to campus and the high turnover at the University with students enrolling and graduating.

“I think it’s also unique that the University community changes 25 percent every year with the outgoing senior population and incoming freshman population,” Franklin said.

Luna said the University differs from St. Paul because people choose to go to school and work on the campus, which she said makes for a positive environment.

An internal view

Two of the four candidates already come with experience on a college campus community.

UMPD Deputy Chief Chuck Miner has spent about 20 years with the University, and Assistant Chief of the Minneapolis Police Department Matthew Clark was a campus security supervisor and officer at Minnesota State University-Mankato while he was in college.

Miner’s experience was his main argument for the position — he spent much of his presentation discussing policies and systems currently in place on campus. If chosen for the spot, Miner said, he would like to strengthen those methods.

He said he’d also like to implement a program where officers meet with student government members on a regular basis to discuss campus safety.

Clark also touched on his relationships within the community that lend themselves to leading the department.

He said the University is just another community within Minneapolis, and his position with the city’s police department doesn’t distance him from the area.

“Everybody’s from somewhere; everybody’s got a story,” he said, “and that adds to the culture of the city of Minneapolis, but it also adds to the culture of the University.”

While Miner said his familiarity with policies like the Jeanne Clery Act and Title IX — which are specific to colleges — qualify him for the position, Franklin pointed to the Clery Act as a difference between policing at the University and Metro Transit.

Ensuing challenges

Finalists were also asked to focus their presentations on challenges law enforcement on campus currently face. Candidates had acutely different views of what those challenges are.

Luna said improving technology means devices get smaller and, therefore, thefts increase.

New technology also changes how police departments go about their jobs. For example, officers can track stolen devices and phones, Luna said.

But Miner focused primarily on sexual assault as the biggest threat to campus safety. He and other candidates said by improving police relations, victims may feel more comfortable about reporting the incidents.

Franklin and Clark gave a lot of attention to policing methods in response to questions about challenges facing campus safety.

Franklin said he would like to see what he called “full-service policing” implemented on campus, which would boost crisis intervention and cultural competency awareness training.

Clark said he would focus on protecting students when they’re on and off campus and setting long- and short-term goals appropriately.