CSU launches search for next police chief

CSUPD Shoulder PatchColorado State University has launched a national search for its next chief of police. The search will be led by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, an organization secured by CSU to manage the search process and identify the ideal candidate for the position.

The chief position was vacated in 2019 when former Chief Scott Harris retired. Wendy Rich-Goldschmidt, who had previously served as chief from 2009 to 2013, agreed to temporarily step away from semi-retirement as a consultant and step into the role of interim chief for two years until December 2021. Capt. Frank Johnson is currently interim chief until the position is filled, which is slated to be by the start of the fall semester.

“It is important to have a leader over CSUPD to provide safety for our community and give the department direction to achieve their goals and promote the University’s values,” said Craig Chesson, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students. “I’m excited to work with a team of students, staff and faculty to identify the best candidate for this important role.”

The national search will focus on identifying candidates that are committed to a guardianship policing model, which is a model that is focused on providing education and seeking community participation, while stressing student health, safety, retention and academic success.

Applications are being accepted through Friday, May 6. A website about the search is available at https://police.colostate.edu/chief-of-police-search/. The application and job description are available at https://policecareers.theiacp.org/job/csu-chief-of-police/62792378/.

The search process will include conversations with university stakeholders as candidates are identified. The chief is expected to continue to build university and community partnerships; support the universities values of inclusion, diversity and excellence; and foster a department culture and mission that are proactive and safety-focused.

President Joyce McConnell initiated the President’s Task Force on Campus, Community and Personal Safety in June 2020. The task force had 17 members internal and external. The group discussed the safety landscape at CSU and Fort Collins broadly and considered its impact at CSU.

To develop concrete, measurable goals stemming from the first committee’s work, President McConnell convened a smaller group, the President’s Safety Task Force, to provide recommendations to her and the new chief of police. This group, which has been meeting since last year, is focused on evaluating, and potentially reimagining, campus safety generally and the work of CSUPD specifically, with a commitment to equity, inclusion, and justice. They have not been charged with dismantling or defunding the CSUPD, but will make achievable, measurable recommendations to provide to the president and new chief.

This spring, the task force will invite students and leaders in key areas—including the Student Diversity Programs and Services Offices, colleges, Health Network, and employee councils—to help inform those recommendations.

Wendy Rich-Goldschmidt recalibrated focus of department as interim

Wendy Rich-Goldschmidt
Wendy Rich-Goldschmidt

During her term as interim, Rich-Goldschmidt emphasized a focus on relationships with university stakeholders and community partners. In addition, she sharpened the department’s approach and processes for recruiting, hiring and retaining a highly-qualified staff that was a good fit for CSU.

As part of her work with recruiting and retention, Rich-Goldschmidt identified an intentional shift to guardian-centric policing for the department – a shift that is codified by the University’s process to identify the next chief.

Guardian policing emphasizes training officers in effective communication, conflict resolution and de-escalation, protecting the most vulnerable in their community, and defaulting to providing education over enforcement when possible. Guardian mindset for police forces underscores defending, protecting and keeping community safe, versus a “warrior” mentality.

“It is important for a new chief to be able to build upon the foundation for success that was built during the interim period with Chief Wendy,” said Marc Barker, assistant vice president for Safety and Risk Services, who oversees CSUPD. “Wendy’s tenure with the department emphasized the mindset of ‘starting with a yes’ and being intentional about working to leave every situation better than what it was before CSUPD arrived.”

Rich-Goldschmidt also focused on training, ensuring that all officers were trained in crisis response and de-escalation strategies, and that supervising officers and staff obtain leadership training. The department also implemented several steps to increase communication among officers and supervisors, and to develop on-going feedback about accountability, goals, expectations, and to celebrate successes.

Interim Chief Frank Johnson serving until new chief identified

Frank Johnson

As acting chief, Johnson, a 17-year veteran with CSUPD, is focused on continuing to solidify the department’s guardian-centric shift and enhancing or maintaining relationships within the university and larger Northern Colorado community, and ready the department for new leadership.

Johnson took the helm of the department in December after Rich-Goldschmidt resumed her retirement.

CSUPD is a department of 36 officers and 20 non-sworn staff with a jurisdiction primarily focused on university campuses.