Public forums with police chief hopefuls begin today

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A series of public forums beginning Friday will feature the final four candidates for the position of University of Texas Police Department chief. The candidates will address campus concerns and discuss the future of the department. 

The forums will round out the selection committee’s process, allowing candidates to address the public before one is selected for further recommendation. The committee hopes to finalize a decision by the end of the semester. Last semester, UTPD Chief Robert Dahlstrom announced his retirement effective next month.

David Carter, Assistant Chief of the Austin Police Department, will be the first candidate to be featured in the forum. It will be held at the Avaya Auditorium at 2 p.m. 

Michael Lauderdale, chairman of the selection committee and criminal justice professor, said candidate performance at the forums will weigh heavily on the committee’s consideration and encouraged students to attend. 

“The open forum is important as we want to make the candidates available to others that are not on the various interview committees,” Lauderdale said. “How the candidates present themselves in public, respond to questions and read our community interests will be an important factor in our considerations.”

The search committee will select a finalist based on a series of qualifications unique to the police chief position, according to a committee press release. Given the University’s large infrastructure, the chief of police must demonstrate a clear sense of leadership and administrative coordination. 

Lauderdale said the chief must be enthusiastic and able to work with a diverse group of people. The chief also needs to be comfortable working with other law enforcement entities.

“This is not a sleepy college town,” Lauderdale said. “We’re a very visible campus with big-time visitors, about one to two million [visitors] per year. We need to have a chief that is respected and works collaboratively with the Austin Police Department and the Travis County Sheriff’s office as well as the Texas Department of Public safety, the DEA and FBI.”

Lauderdale said the chief of police should approach the position with the educational goals of the institution in mind, utilizing the position to further the education of students and the mission of faculty and staff at the University. The forums will help indicate whether the candidates can fulfill such requirements.

Although the committee’s recommendation will single out a final candidate, the ultimate hiring decision rests with UT President William Powers Jr.

“We will have one individual come back to meet with President Powers,” Lauderdale said. “The president’s responsibility is to see if the individual meets his criteria. Our hope is that we can have all of this done and that we have chosen a candidate by the time graduation occurs. We’d like to have some transition before Chief Dahlstrom leaves the campus.”