“She came to me,” student government President Dan Gearhart said, when asked how he went about getting a meeting with CSU’s new Chief of Police Wendy Rich-Goldschmidt.
“She’s very open to students,” he said, sitting in his office Thursday afternoon, a day after talking with the university’s first female chief. “If you want a meeting, you can just get one.”
This level of openness and communication, this ease-of-access, exemplifies Rich-Goldschmidt’s personality, Gearhart, CSU Police Department employees and local law enforcement all agreed.
After steering the Collegian photographer and reporter up to her office on the second floor of the CSU Police Department, and asking them both about their classes and how they liked school so far, she sat down in her chair, clasped her hands in front of her on the desk and asked, “So what would you like to know?”
A ‘Rich’ past
Rich-Goldschmidt didn’t know what she wanted to do in life; just that she didn’t want to work fast food for the rest of her life.
But then, in a general education class at the University of Northern Colorado, she briefly studied law enforcement and “knew from that point, (she) had found (her) calling.”
After graduating from UNC in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and an emphasis in criminal justice, Rich-Goldschmidt says her parents, though supportive as they were, were dismayed when their 5-foot-3-inch daughter decided to become a police officer.
“I have three brothers who are into business,” Rich-Goldschmidt said, “And I think my father thought, ‘Wait, I have one daughter, and she’s the cop.'”
The self-described “tenacious” woman says this idea never stopped her, as she went on to work as a private security officer at the Fort Saint Vrain nuclear generating station near Platteville and then as a patrol officer for UNC starting in 1987.
Years after working as a senior training officer at UNC, later climbing the ranks to chief of police at UNC in 2003, Rich-Goldschimdt, now chief of CSUPD, is proud to have made it to this point.
The first female in her place
Poised in an oversized chair in her office, which, on Aug. 3, is still strewn with boxes, plaques and stacks of papers three weeks after her first day at CSU, Rich-Goldschmidt says she hasn’t had to overcome the stigma of being a female police officer.
“There have been some tremendous trailblazers who have forged a path,” she says, adding, “I would have to say I’ve been treated fairly throughout my career.”
As the first female chief at CSUPD and the fourth in the department’s history, Rich-Goldschmidt said in July, “It’s simply humbling.”
As one who works with Rich-Goldschmidt at the department, Joy Childress, Bicycle Enforcement and Education Program / Traffic Enforcement and Education Program supervisor, said it’s “awesome to have a female role-model in a male-dominated environment.”
“As a female, it’s really exciting to have a woman chief, and not only a woman, but a capable woman,” Childress said.
Wishing the new chief luck and supporting her as a female leader in law enforcement, Fort Collins Police Services officer Kristy Volesky said Rich-Goldschmidt “has clearly demonstrated (her ability to lead) in Greeley.”
Because society is in the “2000s,” as Volesky put it, women in law enforcement do not battle the gender stigmas that they once did.
“I have never experienced that stigma,” she said, linking her experience to the people of Fort Collins and the greater areas.
“We are very fortunate in our community, (the people) are very open.”
It’s important that women have a woman to relate to in the workplace as men have other men to relate to, Volesky added, saying, “(It’s) always great to see females in supervising positions.
Policing the Rams
When asked what her perception of the police was as a child and teenager, Rich-Goldscmidt says it was one of respect, as influenced by her parents.
“I was raised to be respectful,” she says, “I didn’t interact, etc.”
When asked how the CSU community perceives CSU police, she says, “I don’t know, that’s a great question to ask the community.”
Wanting to grow a sense of trust and support between students and the police, Rich-Goldschmidt says under her administration the level of community-based policing will increase.
“Community policing on a college campus is really what law enforcement is all about,” Rich-Goldschmidt said in July. She said the principle is all about police officers walking the campus and talking with students and faculty.
Talking about her scheduled meetings with student government and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Rich-Goldschmidt says it’s her job to connect with students and “go beyond being seen as a green and white flash.”
“Her leadership style is spawned from great integrity and a sense of policing, especially campus policing,” FCPS Chief Dennis Harrison said. “She’s very approachable, and I think the employees (and students) will find her very enjoyable.”
“She’s very people-oriented and understands that there have been issues at the university,” he said, referring to former Chief Dexter Yarbrough’s embattled resignation from CSU in the spring. “She will do quite well, and the big thing is she understands the system: the difference between the municipal and the university levels.”
News Managing Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.