In early July, Matt Clark was named the new chief of police with the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD). Clark most recently served as the assistant chief of police with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).
With MPD, Clark put an emphasis on community-based policing and relationship building in Minneapolis neighborhoods. At the U of M, he intends to do the same.
One of his early initiatives, he says, will be to establish a beat program for his 50-officer police force.
At MPD, Clark’s approach was one of engagement. For example, this past summer Clark helped bring the St. Paul Safe Summer Initiative to Minneapolis, during which University and Minneapolis police officers were able to meet with Cedar-Riverside residents at Currie Park and enjoy an evening picnic.
Clark also helped create the Minneapolis Community Chaplin program—enlisting 12 religious leaders throughout the city, ranging from an Imam from a mosque on Minneapolis’ Northside to a Baptist pastor and a Catholic priest.
“Their role was to support the officers but also to bring a community perspective to officers on a one-on-one basis—about what the folks in their congregations need,” says Clark.
Community policing, he says, is about responding to grassroots needs and concerns. He believes that working with neighborhood organizations and groups that have a public safety focus is a big part of public safety. He also wants to create more opportunities for officers to positively interact with students, faculty, and staff.
The beat program he envisions at the U is consistent with that philosophy.
“Rather than having officers riding in squad cars and responding to calls for service, the beat officer is dedicated to walking or biking around campus, and checking in with different organizations,” he says. “The idea is to be more visible.”
One of the challenges he views as unique to the U is the massive physical space—millions of square feet among hundreds of buildings (some of them U Card access restricted during certain hours through the Building Access Program)—but that only works, says Clark, if people are watching out for things like piggybacking through access points.
“It’s about creating a culture of shared responsibility,” says Clark. “We are all working in the same direction and want the same thing, which is safety for everyone.”
Indeed, the shared culture is part of what drew him to the U.
“There’s definitely a community culture here,” he says. “People feel like they’re part of a greater good and greater organization. When I look at the latter half of my career, and where I want to spend my time and energy … there’s a lot of opportunity here … to commit to making someplace better.”