Reaching Higher

In this short Life
That only lasts an hour
How much – how little – is
Within our power

For the better part of my career, I’ve had a printed copy of this Emily Dickenson poem hanging in my office just above my desk.  It has always served as a reminder to me that for as long as I am here, one of the few things over which I have control is how much I invest, how present I am, and how much I give – to whatever effort, challenge, or relationship is in front of me.  To this end, those who know me well know that I don’t do things half-heartedly, I strive for continuous improvement, and I’m not one to give up without exhausting all possible options.  This has been my approach to most things in my life, and stepping into this position as Chief of Police for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department is no exception.

My first month has flown by quickly. In my short time here I’ve sworn in 3 new officers and was officially sworn in myself. I’ve attended my first UWPD in-service training and this week I’m conducting my first round of officer candidate interviews.  I’ve been meeting regularly now with a host of campus partners and have many more introductory meetings scheduled in the weeks ahead.  At each turn, I’ve been received with warmth, support, and a genuine desire to constructively engage around issues that impact the quality of life, safety, and education on our campus.  I recognize the tremendous opportunity I have to contribute to this community in leading the exceptional men and women of the UW-Madison Police Department.  So with my first “Chief’s Corner” blog, I want to begin by sharing the framework out of which I lead, and my vision moving forward.

At our core, UWPD is committed to promoting and supporting the academic and research mission of the university.  Our primary focus, of course, is safety — and to this end, we are proactive in our efforts to be leaders in innovative community-oriented policing.  We value diversity and promote campus community wellbeing through collaborative approaches to ensuring safety.  Our work and my vision for this department is grounded in the concept of “reaching higher”.  This means that we are committed to a continuous process of assessment – of working toward that next level of service and to do this requires ongoing solicitation of feedback, engagement, and a responsiveness to the community we serve.  It requires communication, consideration, collaboration, compromise, consistency, and creativity.

So how do we advance this vision?  I believe we start by listening.  Shortly after I took office, I began the process of establishing both external (community) and internal (department) advisory groups.  I’ve met with students both through ASM and in smaller groups to hear directly from them about their concerns, expectations, and ideas.  I’ve partnered with campus administrators, staff, and faculty to discuss such issues as campus carry, sexual assault, alcohol use/abuse, use of force, community control of police, protest guidelines that seek to facilitate free speech even when that speech is unpopular or even hateful, questions about immigration enforcement, and the fear that many students of color experience.

This blog – the first of many to follow – is just one way that I hope to improve communication, offer a level of transparency, create a mechanism for sharing insights and updates, and further cultivate trust and understanding.  The issues before us present complicated challenges that aren’t easily resolved.  But I am committed to the process, to engaging in community conversation and in doing what is “within our power” in the UWPD to work toward solutions.