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Executive Director of Public Safety Rodney Chatman recounts time at UD

Rodney Chatman considers breakthroughs with students among his greatest achievements as University of Dayton executive director of public safety and chief of police, especially creating bonds with students from backgrounds where there's much distrust for police and even interacting with police in social settings is seemingly impossible.

Chatman, who leaves UD Feb. 7 to become the chief of police for the University of Utah, reflected on two interactions during his four-year tenure that stick out to him. 

"A student came to my office to talk. She said where's she's from, her neighborhood and her family don't like or trust the police. And never did she think she'd proactively come to a police station and proactively seek out the chief to have a conversation. She was blown away she was sitting here," he said.

As part of public safety's outreach to students, Chatman and his officers often meet with international students to help them understand U.S. laws, the role of police and scams targeting international students.

"A young lady said in her wildest dreams she never thought she could sit next to uniformed police officers and eat pizza," Chatman added. 

Those and similar instances tell Chatman the department is having an impact in “demystifying the uniform” and showing campus that security and safety isn't “us vs. them, but we."

"My greatest joy and fondest memories are relationships I've built with students," he said, adding that everything he helped implement was with the students in mind.  

For his department's efforts, UD Public Safety received the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators Award for Innovations in Community Policing in 2018. The association presents the award for significant evidence-based crime prevention programs or initiatives and development of strong community partnership programs. 

"Chief Chatman emphasized the importance of community policing and worked to foster strong connections between public safety and the entire campus community, especially students," said William M. Fischer, UD vice president for student development. "He has been a strong voice for our UD police officers and their professional development. Chief engaged in his work with the highest level of professionalism and integrity."

Throughout his time as chief, Chatman emphasized community outreach to "meet students where they are,"  establishing a community engagement team and a student public safety advocate team to be a bridge between students and the department, situating their base in a house in the student neighborhood. He also sought opportunities for his officers to be in the presence of students like during lunchtime in the student union, at student organization meetings, or barbecues and bowling nights with students so they can ask questions.

"We don't want to be seen only when something's wrong," Chatman said. "We want to be more prominent where most of the students are. We can take our services to them on their schedules in a familiar, comfortable setting rather than students having to come to us in Fitz Hall.” 

Some initiatives seek to empower and educate students. Public safety conducts self-defense workshops and a Citizen Police Academy, a five-week program during which faculty, staff and students get a taste of public safety's day-to-day operations. Sessions include how public safety solves crimes, including an opportunity to "solve" a sample crime and conduct a sample traffic stop.

Other initiatives focus on professional development — a fair and impartial policing workshop; Lexipol, a service to ensure public safety policies and procedures are up-to-date; and training with a virtual reality system that trains and evaluates officers on interacting with the public and reacting during high-stress situations. Also, each supervisor reviews 10 body camera videos a week "so we can see the extraordinary work our officers are doing, commend them, and address certain issues before they become problematic," Chatman said.

Public safety also improved the way it notifies the University community about threats under Chatman. He developed Flyer Aware messages for instances that don't rise to the level of a safety advisory and and started using social media for crime prevention tutorials. UD also installed an emergency alert siren for severe weather warnings and other situations requiring the University community to tune to the campus emergency notification system for more information. 

"I have come to know Chief Chatman as an incredible role model for inclusive and bold leadership," said Bryan Borodkin, University of Dayton Student Government Association president during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years. "His work with UD police was transformative and broke all molds for what many students thought collegiate policing would look like. Specifically, his efforts to increase community policing made our campus safer and more welcoming. Chief's energy and enthusiasm for the safety of the University was truly second-to-none. I know I, along with my fellow students, will miss him dearly and hope for the absolute best in his future endeavors."


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