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With several weeks left in search, UPD chief candidates come to campus

Hatchet File Photo
Hatchet File Photo

GW could have a new police chief as early as this May.

University officials have interviewed at least four candidates to replace Kevin Hay, who stepped down as University Police Department chief last semester after four years leading the force. They include the police department’s interim chief Frank Demes, as well as a candidate from the Maryland State Troopers and a woman in law enforcement who has experience working on domestic violence cases, students who met with the candidates said.

The candidates spoke with student panels at the end of March. Student Association senators and members of other student organizations asked the candidates how they would handle sexual assault cases, drug and alcohol violations, and campus safety risks, students who attended said.

One student, who sat on one of the panels and spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meetings were confidential, said four candidates made it to the final round of interviews. Another student who sat on the panel and also spoke on the condition of anonymity said the female candidate had worked on the investigation after the Beltway sniper attacks in 2003.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar confirmed that students are “participating” in the search for a new police chief.

“We will continue the search until we find the best qualified candidate,” Csellar said in an email. She declined to comment further on the hiring process.

Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell declined to comment on when the University would pick a new police chief or who is under consideration for the position.

Thomas Falcigno, an SA senator who interviewed one candidate as part of a student panel, said it’s important to have student input on who is chosen to lead campus police because “UPD is on the front line dealing with us.” SA President Nick Gumas reached out to Falcigno through email to serve on the panel.

“It’s important that we create an environment of mutual respect between the students and UPD,” he said.

Chuck Drago, a consultant for police departments, said candidates for university police chief positions are typically officers with a minimum of 10 to 12 years of experience in a command position. He said universities usually prefer officers with experience on college campuses and who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree.

Drago said the finalists in the process usually go through interviews that include test scenarios to see how the candidate would react in specific situations as police chief. He said members of the community, neighboring police chiefs and students may also be involved in the interview process.

“It’s their police department, so they should have some say in what type of person they are looking for in a police chief,” Drago said.

Drago also said universities don’t usually involve current UPD officers in their process for choosing a new chief because they would be working beneath the new hire. He said it could lead to a “sticky situation” if current officers were involved.

“I’ve never seen a process that involves current officers,” Drago said. “It is very unusual.”

The new chief will lead a department where five former officers have filed complaints for age-based, gender-based or racial discrimination in the past five years. In March, one former UPD officer filed a lawsuit in D.C. District Court, alleging she was sexually harassed during her time on the force.

Michael Massaroli, the president of the Residence Hall Association, also sat on a student panel for a different candidate. He said he tailored his questions to focus on issues that students living on campus might experience, like drug and alcohol violations.

Including students in the process could help build a positive relationship between the student body and the new chief, Massaroli said.

“Hopefully this will set good groundwork for whoever is ultimately chosen,” Massaroli said. “Setting that expectation from the beginning in the hiring process will lead to good results with the new UPD chief.”

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