Meet the 3 finalists to be the University of Utah’s next police chief

(Photos courtesy of the University of Utah) From left, Rodney Chatman, Haydee Martinez and Kevin Gillilan.

Holding onto a microphone, a woman listed the four females with ties to the University of Utah who have been murdered in the past few years.

A staff member was shot to death by her husband in a parking lot. A medical resident died after her boyfriend pulled a gun on her at their apartment. A 23-year-old kinesiology major was killed by a man whom she briefly communicated with on a dating app. And a track star was shot multiple times by a convicted felon who had lied about his identity.

With all of that, the woman said, she doesn’t feel safe on campus. But her fears have escalated even more, she said, as several other female students and former employees have come forward to say that the university’s police department ignored their reports of rape and harassment.

So, graduate student Devon Cantwell asked: “How are you going to rebuild trust with women on this campus?”

It was perhaps the most pointed way the question was put, but all of the candidates vying to be the next police chief at the U. answered some variation of it during their public forums this week. The school hosted the meet-and-greets starting Wednesday and ending Friday for each of the three finalists for the job.

And top of mind of those who attended was how the new hire would address safety concerns that have persisted for years — but have come into sharper focus since student-athlete Lauren McCluskey was murdered outside her dorm in October 2018.

The university has faced criticism over the past year, including a walkout by students, for failing to take concerns from women seriously after McCluskey’s death. Police Chief Dale Brophy retired amid the continued pushback. And the U. is now looking to choose his replacement.

The person selected will serve under a new chief safety officer, a position created this year as part of a university-wide effort to improve security. That posting was supposed to be filled this week, but the individual has not yet been named. The university will announce the new police chief after that — with the expectation that a decision will come before the end of the month.

“The chief of police is an important position that will shape the future of our department of public safety,” said U. spokeswoman Annalisa Purser. “This search produced highly qualified candidates from around the nation. Each has extensive experience with campus policing and a strong understanding of the experiences and needs of this unique population.”

The finalists are:

• Haydee Martinez, a lieutenant at Northwestern University in Illinois.

• Rodney Chatman, the executive director of public safety and the chief of police at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

• Kevin Gillilan, the police chief at the University of North Alabama.

The school received 50 applications, Purser said. A committee of students and U. staff selected the three finalists. And the U. will review feedback from those who attended the forums before making a decision.

One complaint from students, though, was that the events were held at the end of the semester, during finals week, making it difficult for many to attend.

Those who did come wanted to know how officers would be trained to respond to domestic violence, how they would work with students with “historic bad experiences with law enforcement” and how each candidate would improve morale.

Haydee Martinez

Martinez is currently a lieutenant at Northwestern University in Illinois where she has worked for the past 18 years. It’s where she started her career. And, at her forum Wednesday, she said she is the first woman and the first person of color to move up as high in the ranks as she has there.

“I believe in working with marginalized groups and women to bring change and culture and different perspectives to campus,” Martinez said.

In 2015, she sued the university for sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Her allegations are similar to what some former female employees say has happened at the University of Utah’s police department.

Martinez, who is gay, accused a sergeant at Northwestern of using anti-gay slurs against her and that she was given unfavorable shifts after returning from maternity leave, according to The Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper there. A federal court dismissed the claims, saying they didn’t amount to harassment under the law.

She said that she remained at Northwestern, though, to help the department improve and work on addressing bias. And she hopes to do the same at the U. Her focus here would be hiring more women and officers of color to joint the police force — as well as training those hired to better handle concerns reported by minorities. (Currently, of the 40 U. officers, four are women.)

Martinez plans to have the department better collaborate with the Title IX office on campus, which responds to reports of gender-based violence and discrimination, and better connect those reporting crimes to victim advocates — both things that an independent review after McCluskey’s murder found the department was not doing but should be.

She wants her staff trained on how to respond to victims of sexual and domestic violence, in particular, and how to talk to those reporting in a trauma-informed way.

“There’s a line between interviewing and interrogation,” Martinez said, and victims should never be re-traumatized when they come to police.

She pledged, too, to be more transparent and accountable than the U.’s department has been.

“It all starts at the top. I’m a big believer in that,” she added. “As a leader you need to model the behavior you want from others.”

Her department did face criticism, though, in November after using force against students protesting a campus visit by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Rodney Chatman

Chatman has spent 30 years in law enforcement — half at city departments and half on campus.

Most recently, he has been serving as the chief of police at the University of Dayton in Ohio, a title he’s held for three years. The school is much smaller than the University of Utah— with about 11,000 students to the U.’s 33,000 — but Chatman said Thursday that he has responded to large incidents, including a KKK rally close to campus, that have prepared him.

Also, in August of this year, a gunman killed nine people and injured 27 in a mass shooting two miles from campus. Chatman and his force were some of the first officers on scene.

Flyer News, the university’s student-run newspaper, said that after the attack, Chatman has worked to increase the visibility of officers on campus and have more police patrolling popular areas. He’s also been talking to his officers about the trauma of responding to a critical incident to “demystify emotional health.”

A focus on mental health — both in his department and among students — is his main focus in applying for the police chief position at the U. He would like to have all officers trained in crisis intervention.

“Students are at a very vulnerable time,” he said at his forum. “I want officers to be able to better respond to those who are being affected.”

Chatman also proposed making sure the university is transparent in reporting the number of crimes on campus and keeping students informed. He particularly wants to engage with those at the university to know what the needs are, what the issues are and how to rebuild trust after McCluskey’s murder.

“We need to be transparent with everything,” he said, responding to a question from a student in the audience. “We need to be trying to get better each and every day.”

At Dayton, Chatman started a training program where students could learn some of the basics of policing. He believes that approach bridges the divide between officers and students.

Students there were frustrated, though, by how his officers responded to a St. Patrick’s Day parade that turned into a riot with people throwing glass bottles and yelling at police in 2016.

Chatman previously worked at the University of Cincinnati, too, as a police captain. While there, one of his officers shot and killed an unarmed black man while conducting an off-campus traffic stop. The department overhauled its police policies and started doing random body camera reviews. But many in the community protested, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer, saying the bias was never addressed.

Kevin Gillilan

Gillilan has been the chief of police at the University of North Alabama since 2015 — and has spent most of his 24-year career in law enforcement leading safety efforts on campuses.

“Developing relationships on campus, that’s the key to everything,” he said Friday.

Gillilan said his approach to taking the reins at the U. wouldn’t differ much from how he’s operated before, basing almost everything on communicating with students, faculty and staff. He was interested in applying here, he said, because of what the school has put in place to improve following McCluskey’s slaying and concerns from students.

“I think the community should be very encouraged by that,” he added. “I have not seen a university take this stance during my career. It’s very rare.”

His Alabama department was criticized in July 2017 after an officer there shot and injured a woman who had tried to hit him with her car. Some residents felt Gillilan wasn’t being transparent when he declined to provide information about the incident, according to AL.com, a local Alabama news website. The woman’s mother led much of the dissent, pointing out that her daughter was trying to get to the emergency room before the altercation and was shot multiple times by the officer.

During his presentation, Gillilan said one of the biggest challenges facing officers is learning how to deescalate situations without using force. That has led to a decrease in popularity among police that has to be recovered, he suggested. The best way to do that, he believes, is through better communication.

“It’s more valuable than any other tool I received as a law enforcement officer. And it’s actually kept me from using other tools I’d rather not have to,” Gillilan said. “You always want to take control of the narrative and make sure you tell your community what the issues are, how you’re going to address them and what assistance you’re providing.”

Gabe Martinez, vice president of the Associated Students at the University of Utah, asked Gillilan what type of relationship the candidate would have with students.

“We like to think we know what’s best. But if you give them the opportunity, students will inform you and let you know what’s needed,” he responded.

At the U., he intends to do that by hosting forums, speaking to fraternities and sororities, partnering with student government. Trust, he noted, is a collaboration that requires engagement from both sides. He also said he has two daughters who are college-age, and he wants to “provide the type of services I would expect for my own children.”

Campus policing presents more challenges than municipal policing — because of Title IX considerations and reporting requirements, he said. But he wants to partner with Salt Lake City’s police department so that both can work together if there were ever an intruder on campus or another large incident.

Gillilan was also a finalist earlier this year to lead Utah State University’s police department but the school ultimately went with a different candidate.