Jul 272010
 
Authors: Rachel Childs

CSU Police Chief Wendy Rich-Goldschmidt has seen a year of bike traffic, budget cuts and gun bans and is ready to take on another one.

“I certainly like new challenges, and this has certainly been a challenge for me,” Rich-Goldschmidt said.

Last year, Rich-Goldschmidt left her position as police chief at the University of Northern Colorado to take over for former CSU Police Chief Dexter Yarborough, who resigned last year amid both internal and external investigations into alleged misconduct.

“I was at a place in my life where I was at UNC for 22 years. I felt like I was ready for a new challenge and looking for a new chapter in my life,” Rich-Goldschmidt, who had been with UNC since 1987, said.

She beat out University of Alaska Anchorage Police Chief Joe Dale Pittman and Commander of the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force and former CSU police officer Jerry Schiager for the position.

She began work last August and was sworn in more than a month later. The beginning was like drinking from a fire hose, she said.

“One of the things that I noticed right away is that ten to the hour it’s kind of like walking the gauntlet because you have to move so many people, either pedestrians or bicyclists or motorists, in a fairly compressed space,” she said.

Her label as the first female chief has no bearing on her ability as a leader.

“I look more at the qualities I have as a person,” she said. “There have been small issues over the span of my career where gender may have been a discussion point, but I don’t see it as having been an obstacle for me.”

Her largest accomplishment for the year was the creation of a strategic plan and organizing the direction of the department.

“We’ve certainly had an opportunity to make some changes and provide some new direction and strategy in terms of identifying our goals and objectives and trying to of course augment campus safety, which is really our mission,” Rich-Goldschmidt said.

Some of the changes include updating policies in order to maintain the department’s accreditation and tackling issues such as alcohol awareness by connecting students with resources that include RamRide and the Education and Prevention Services Department.

The aim is to keep the community safe and facilitate the success that students are here, according to Rich-Goldschmidt.

“I have always been impressed with Chief Rich-Goldschmidt.  Her approach to policing is exactly what the university needs.  She understands the needs of the university and leads in a positive direction to accomplish our goals,” said CSUPD Assistant Chief Frank Johnson.

Positive relationships are Rich-Goldschmidt’s other main focus. The police department works closely with several on-campus divisions and academic organizations including the Associated Student of CSU, Housing and Dining Services and Crime Stoppers.

“There are some great partnerships that we are continuing to work on, whether or not its community members or police agencies,” Rich-Goldschmidt said.

Vice President of Student Affairs Blanche Hughes meets with the chief monthly to discuss how to allow students and law enforcement to better communicate.

This year’s endeavors include a question-and-answer session for incoming students and parents, as well as the regular ‘walk-arounds’ by officers in the residence halls.

“She’s a great team player. She’s always looking at what’s best for the students and the university,” Hughes said.

Fort Collins Police Department Chief Dennis Harrison believes that the role of law enforcement in each department has been given a better focus than last year.

“It’s a great relationship,” Harrison said.

The two meet weekly to discuss future collaboration. CSUPD has recently planned to dedicate some staff members to assist the city with alcohol safety by adding some staff to the downtown area to monitor safety around bars.

Controversial issues, such as the CSU System Board of Governors charging campus leadership to implement a system-wide gun ban earlier this year, have also fallen on the chief’s desk.

“It was quite an interesting time. This is a topic that people feel very passionate about, with a myriad of opinions and perspectives,” Rich-Goldschmidt said.

The policy of allowing concealed weapons still stands, and the department will stand by that policy, she said

Upon signing up for the position, she was thrust into a tight fiscal atmosphere, in which the department saw $152,000 in budget cuts, called for adjustments to staffing and the loss of five squad cars.

“I don’t think that the community will see any significant change or impact in our service,” Rich-Goldschmidt said, adding that her long-term goal is to see a positive impact on the way law enforcement and students interact and how the police force operates.

“In terms of the coming year again we will be working hard to again roll out that strategic plan and identify the ways that we can be as involved in helping our community to be a great place to work and study to achieve their four year degree.”

Crime Beat Reporter Rachel Childs can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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