From a two-year stint in the Austin Police Department SWAT team to cleaning up gang-ridden streets in Southeast Austin in the early ‘90s, UTPD Chief Robert Dahlstrom has experienced just about all policing has to offer. On May 31, Dahlstrom will retire from law enforcement, closing out the final chapter in his 36-year-long career as a police officer.
Dahlstrom said he is grateful to the University for giving him the opportunity to work at UTPD. He called himself “humbled” to have worked with great people in and outside the department, but also thanked his family for being supportive throughout his career.
“I think the other people I have to thank are my family for putting up with 36 years of missing family events when they really wanted me to be there,” Dahlstrom said. “36 years of not being there at night and on the evenings and weekends … I’ve missed holidays — my family’s been really good about that.”
Several of Dahlstrom’s colleagues commented on the chief’s legacy and influence on campus.
Lt. Gonzalo Gonzalez of UTPD, a department veteran of 25 years, praised Dahlstrom for his commitment to service-oriented policing and student outreach.
“Of all the chiefs we’ve had, Chief Dahlstrom is the guy who constantly reminds us that we’re here for the students,” Gonzalez said. “He stresses professionalism, and constantly reminds us to make connections outside the department and around the campus community.”
Pat Clubb, vice president of University Operations, said Dahlstrom came to UT with a high degree of policing skill and competency.
“What made [Dahlstrom] unique was that he was a proponent of self-education,” Clubb said. “He made sure each member of this campus community had the means to become educated in ways that empowered the individual to feel safe.”
When asked what he thought was his biggest accomplishment at UTPD, Dahlstrom denied having accomplished anything on his own and praised his department.
“I don’t think I’ve accomplished anything on my own,” Dahlstrom said. “I think the department has done a wonderful job and continues to do so everyday. For me, I’m most proud of the officers and staff at UTPD, and how much they care for the students. They do everything they can for them.”
Dahlstrom said he hopes to spend much-needed time with his family during retirement, especially his wife and two grandchildren, Jackson and Lily. Dahlstrom has two married children who graduated from Texas A&M. Dahlstrom considers himself a history buff, especially in regard to Texas history — which he hopes to explore during retirement.
“I’m interested in seeing how life has changed,” Dahlstrom said. “I like to see where we’ve been and how we ended up where we are now. [My wife and I] made a bucket list together. [We] really want to visit all 50 states, and see all 254 county courthouses in Texas.”
Dahlstrom said the biggest problems facing the department after he leaves will be to keep the campus community educated and preparing for new on-campus developments, like the upcoming medical school and engineering complex.
Dahlstrom said keeping the community’s issues in mind should be the first priority for the new chief.
“My biggest advice to the new chief would be to listen,” Dahlstrom said. “You can’t be a service organization without knowing the wants and needs of the community you work for. You have to be aware of the issues. Listen to what people have to say, and take that into account when you make any decision you make.”