Police chief search

by V. Paul

From experience investigating child abuse cases in the streets of Minneapolis to monitoring police actions in the streets of Zvornik, Bosnia-Herzegovina, four public safety professionals are vying for the University’s top spot to keep campus streets safe.
The candidates for the position of campus chief of police will individually meet the University community starting today for the first of a series of noontime public forums in Morrill Hall.
“The (University) community is unique in many ways because it’s a commuter campus in a downtown environment,” said interim police chief Lt. Steve Johnson. “You have a lot of young people away from home for the first time, so they become vulnerable to thieves.”
The candidates will address the theme, “The Role of the Police Department in Providing Service in a University Setting,” and then answer questions from audience members.
“I guess I’m curious how each of the candidates approaches that,” said Mark Cox, interim assistant vice president of the University’s Health, Safety and Transportation department. “Police culture and University culture aren’t necessarily the same. I think it’s important for them to be aware of what the campus issues are.”
Two candidates have had previous experience as university police chiefs, while all have worked as city police officers at some point in their careers.
“There are some distinct advantages to knowing how a university environment operates and communicates,” Johnson said. “But the University is also a big city environment and community, so having experience in both would be an advantage.”
Laura Goodman-Brown, the only local candidate, said the next goal for her is to be a police chief somewhere. Although she does not have university police experience, she does not consider that a disadvantage, she said.
From her experience in the Minneapolis Police Department’s child abuse division and with the state’s Office of Crime Victims, she developed a belief that fundamentally, the basic issue of policing is to be partnered with the community being policed, she said.
“The difference or uniqueness of the university setting is even though people don’t live there, it’s still their school, their place,” Goodman-Brown said. “(A university setting) is not unlike what you would say is a small-town community. They’re more alike then they are different.”
Rick Boyd of Pennsylvania served as a United Nations Police Task Force station commander in Bosnia-Herzegovina for two years, until December 1998. Prior to that ,he worked on the Michigan State University police department and was chief of the University of Pittsburgh police.
Today’s forum features Douglas Wright, who currently works as assistant director of the State University of New York at Buffalo police department.
The last forum on June 25 will feature a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy, George Aylward, who has been a police chief in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Aylward currently directs the training of police departments in developing countries with the U.S. Department of Justice in New York.
The police chief search committee received more than 40 applications for the position and whittled them down twice, meeting with several candidates before submitting the four candidates to Cox, who will make the final decision.
Because the candidates survived two rounds of evaluation, they probably are capable of dealing with the University’s policing needs, he said.
After the forums, University officials still need to check each candidate’s backgrounds and references. Cox hopes to make an offer for employment to one of the candidates by mid-July.