Christensen named University police chief

Pending the approval of the board of trustees, current interim chief of the University Police Department Jeff Christensen will officially be named the next police chief.

Christensen said he does not foresee any reason why the transition would not go smoothly and that he is honored to be named the next police chief at his alma mater.

“I feel really honored,” Christensen said. “I went to school here; I earned my master’s here. The department has done great things for me. I’ve been able to travel nationally and internationally and talk about the things that we’ve done here, so it’s a great reward to earn the position.”

He said he does not plan to make any significant changes as the chief and that the department will keep moving forward. He plans to fine-tune the department’s strategic planning and look for innovative ways to build relationships with students as well as others in the community.

Christensen was selected for the position after a nationwide search led by the Hollins Group, which is the firm that assisted in the search leading to Barbara O’Connor’s hiring in 2008.

The search turned out three finalists: Christensen and two candidates from outside of the University. Frank Wiley, chief of police at the University of Albany and Penny Fischer, police inspector at Michigan State were the other two finalists. A committee headed by Renee Romano, vice chancellor of student affairs, chose to recommend Christensen for the job.

Robin Kaler, University spokeswoman, said a search firm is usually used when a high-level position is open to make sure there is a diverse pool of quality candidates.

“We want to make sure that we have not missed anyone across the nation, who we might want to recruit for the position,” Kaler said.

Kaler added that she believes Christensen’s experience at the University is very valuable and that, also, he has done a great job in all of the positions he has held. Christensen was hired as a patrol officer in 1985. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1990 and has been deputy chief and assistant director of the department since 2005. He served as the interim chief these past few months after O’Connor left in February and also during the 2008 search before she was hired. He was also one the campus’s first student-patrol supervisors.

Chancellor and Vice President Phyllis M. Wise said in a press release that the University is fortunate to have Christensen become the permanent police chief, saying “he is familiar with the many issues that University Police must face and is well-versed in specific campus issues, procedures and protocol.”

She added that he brings a goal of making the campus police even better along with a host of developed connections with the campus and external stakeholders.

Christensen said he hopes to make this department one of the best university police departments in the nation. He said it will continue to build its relationship with the community as well as neighboring agencies so the department can be as effective as possible.

“I have a vision that we’ll be the best campus police department in the nation, and to get there we need to do that on the pathway that our community wants,” he said.

The board of trustees will vote on the approval of Christensen at its next meeting in Chicago on July 18-19.