How the U of U police chief is working to create change on campus

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The University of Utah police chief is aware of the challenges the U’s faced in recent years about campus safety. Now, two weeks into the new school year, he tells ABC4 News how he’s working to create change.

“I’m the new police chief and just wanted to get out and it’s important for me to get out and meet students,” said U of U police chief Rodney Chatman to a group of students Thursday afternoon.

Walking around campus, Chatman is letting students and staff know that their police department is ready to help.

“We want you to feel comfortable. That’s why I’m going out talking to students and seeing how we can be a resource to you,” Chatman said to a student on campus.

“Authentically we want you to feel safe and check with you and see if there’s anything you would like to see differently or let you know that we are always welcome of your feedback,” he said to another U of U student.

Chatman believes the culture around poor campus safety is a narrative that can change by listening to students about their concerns and recommendations, as well as creating police accountability and transparency.

“The students want to be safe, and they want a police department that is a superb police department, and that’s exactly what we want,” Chatman said.

The police chief said change doesn’t just happen in one day, rather, it’s an on-going work. But with no doubt, he knows transformation will happen.

“That’s what we’re rolling up our sleeves to do,” Chatman said. “We’re committed to making change, but we’re committed to making the type of change that incorporates every voice on campus.”

Chatman said change is already happening at the U. He’s beginning to have conversations with students, staff, and campus organizations; and also noting the police department is in the process of becoming an accredited agency, they’re addressing police policy and procedure, requiring implicit bias training and involving students in police hiring and planning efforts.

Chatman said COVID-19 has impacted some of the ways he had hoped to have some conversations (i.e. sitting down in-person, or even over coffee), but he says this is not stopping him from creating change.  

When the University announced Chatman would be the new police chief, he told ABC4 News “We will work each day to be better than the day prior.”

Following his start in February, he told ABC4 News accountability, transparency and safety are ways he aims to create a safe campus environment.

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