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University of Utah hires new police chief

Rodney Chatman says he aims to build trust between police and community amid campus safety concerns

Rodney Chatman, chief of police at the University of Dayton, Ohio, Police Department has been hired to be the new police chief at the University of Utah.
Rodney Chatman, chief of police at the University of Dayton, Ohio, Police Department has been hired to be the new police chief at the University of Utah.
University of Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — The chief of police at the University of Dayton in Ohio has been selected to become the new police chief at the University of Utah.

Rodney Chatman will replace embattled Chief Dale Brophy as the new chief for the U.’s Department of Public Safety. Brophy retired in October following heavy public scrutiny over his department’s handling of the Lauren McCluskey murder on campus.

Chatman will begin his new job on Feb. 17.

“Rodney is an experienced law enforcement leader who has a deep understanding of campus policing,” U. President Ruth Watkins said in a prepared statement. “He is committed to best practices, community engagement and relationship building and is the ideal candidate to lead and guide change in our Department of Public Safety. Rodney is particularly recognized for effectiveness in building partnerships with students to enhance safety.”

More than 50 people applied for the police chief position, according to the university.

“Fourteen candidates were presented to the U.’s search committee, which then interviewed six applicants before narrowing the pool to three finalists. The finalists met with various campus stakeholders and participated in open campus forums in December,” according to the school.

Chatman, who has been the executive director of public safety as well as the police chief at the University of Dayton since 2016, also served as a captain for the University of Cincinnati Police Department for three years and before that worked as an officer in the department for six years.

Chatman, who has 30 years of law enforcement experience, has also been an officer with the St. Bernard and Silverton, Ohio, police departments.

“My ultimate goal as chief is to build trust between the police and the community — staff, faculty and particularly students,” Chatman said in a prepared statement. “It will be vital to hear specific concerns and understand what success looks like from their perspective. Students need to know that the police chief wants to hear their voice and wants to begin the process of healing from past and present hurts.

A University of Utah police car is pictured on campus in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020.
A University of Utah police car is pictured on campus in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

On his LinkedIn page, Chatman lists his specialties as public speaking, crisis communication and community-oriented policing.

“I have always said that you can’t effectively police a community unless you are a part of that community. This philosophy describes the manner in which we deliver policing services. We police with compassion and integrity while valuing the authentic relationships we build with community members,” he wrote.

Gabe Martinez, vice president of student relations for the Associated Students of the University of Utah, lauded the selection.

“Safety is at the forefront of students’ minds and I believe the U. has selected the perfect individual for this role,” Martinez said in a statement. “Chief Chatman is not only passionate about keeping the public safe, but also about positively influencing the lives of those he strives to keep safe.

“I think students will be excited about Chief Chatman’s strong interest in improving our campus police force and the all-around safety on our campus,” Martinez said.

Chatman’s selection comes three weeks after the university announced that Marlon C. Lynch would become the U.’s first chief safety officer.

The U. Department of Public Safety and campus security overall came under heavy scrutiny following the shooting death of McCluskey, a student-athlete, in October 2018. McCluskey’s parents have filed a $56 million lawsuit against the university alleging campus police ignored their daughter’s repeated calls and reports of stalking, intimidation and dating violence from Melvin Shawn Rowland, 37. McCluskey stopped seeing Rowland after she learned he had lied to her about his age and had spent time in the Utah State Prison. But Rowland continued to contact her.