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Brown names Rodney Chatman as vice president for campus safety

Chatman to join U. in “expanded and newly elevated position” effective Sept. 1

Rodney Chatman will assume an “expanded and newly elevated position” of vice president for campus safety effective Sept. 1, according to a July 20 news release from the University. Chatman’s hiring marks the completion of a national search conducted throughout the spring 2021 semester following a Dec. 15 announcement that Mark Porter, former executive director and chief of public safety, would resign effective June 30.

The vice president for campus safety is now the highest role in the University’s Department of Public Safety — a position formerly known as the executive director and chief of public safety. While the vice president will continue to serve as DPS chief, leading the University’s 57 sworn officers, 28 civilian officers and six DPS administrative staff members, the change in this title also comes with an emphasis on “(collaboration) with others in the development of University-wide policies and programs related to campus safety,” according to a description of the position shared with applicants.

The vice president position was developed, in part, in response to conversations about policing and public safety that have been revitalized both in the national discourse and on campus, Russell Carey '91 MA'06, executive vice president for planning and policy told The Herald. These conversations have emphasized the need for collaboration between different sectors of the University, he explained.

According to Carey, through conversations with community members, the University has re-examined the ways in which a variety of campus departments — ranging from Health and Wellness to the Department of Facilities Management to the Division of Campus Life — all play a role in promoting safety on campus. Further, the University found that increasing “interconnectedness” between these departments will help its community “work together as effectively as possible to have as safe a campus as possible, and one that’s supportive, and inviting, and inclusive and free of bias,” Carey said.

Chatman comes to the University from the University of Utah, bringing 31 years of experience in law enforcement, including 16 years serving on college campuses. According to Chatman, this experience working in public safety has given him insight into the importance of collaboration, community involvement and transparency.

“What I’ve found in every venue and community that I’ve worked in … (is that) the hallmark to success has been community engagement,” Chatman told The Herald in an interview. “Those experiences have taught me that communities really don’t want policing done to them. It has taught me that communities want to be in collaboration and partnership with their police department.”

Throughout his time on college campuses, Chatman explained, he has worked to create initiatives that bolster community engagement and foster relationships between the public and police departments. This has included the creation of advocacy committees in which student members serve as liaisons between police and the student body, as well as immersive learning experiences which allowed students to participate in mock versions of police responsibilities in order to establish a relationship with the police department and develop an understanding of their role in the campus community.

As vaccination rates continue to rise on campus and the University eases its COVID-19 restrictions, Chatman aims to create new community-building opportunities on College Hill. When developing ideas for community support and engagement, Chatman emphasized the importance of listening to students and making decisions while considering the University’s unique landscape.

“Given that all communities are different, what has worked in one environment may not work in the same way in another,” he said. Community engagement is “certainly going to be influenced by students, what they want to bring to the table and what it is they see as a success for them in this relationship.”

For Chatman, community support also means fostering transparency around and spreading awareness of how police presence is interpreted differently across communities based on past experiences, and how, for Black community members and people of color in particular, violence from police has created mistrust and hurt.

“Policing as a profession has been the face of discrimination, has been the enforcement arm of the things that have systematically denied the rights of people of color — and that also extends on a college campus to a multitude of identities as well,” he said.

“We have to acknowledge that when we show up we are not necessarily perceived as the heroes all of the time based on the lived experiences of the person that you’re interacting with,” Chatman added. It is important to make sure campus police and community members at large understand “how people may be intimidated by the police or have had bad experiences (with) the police, and (how) that informs how they respond to us. I think acknowledging that hurt verbally and putting it out there is a start.”

According to Carey, conversations on the impacts of policing on Black communities elevated in the past year by Black Lives Matter organizers have underscored the importance of ensuring that leadership within DPS is cognizant of the history of policing and the ongoing impact of bias on marginalized communities. Through both the development of the vice president for campus safety position and the ensuing selection process, the impacts of policing on communities of color were central to the University’s decision-making, he said.

Chatman added that he still sees the value in police presence on college campuses, but with reforms that ensure all community members feel safe.

“I think Brown is uniquely situated to write our own story, despite the national narrative,” Chatman said. “What I’m looking forward to is creating something here on the campus of Brown that will be the model for other campus agencies throughout the country.”

Chatman is currently on leave from the University of Utah, following allegations that he was “performing law enforcement duties before receiving his police certification in Utah,” according to the University’s news release. However, the claims were deemed unfounded by external law enforcement agencies, and no evidence of misconduct was discovered by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office.

Since Chief Porter’s formal resignation in June, DPS Captain James Jackson has served as the interim director and chief of public safety, and DPS Lieutenant John Carvalho has served as captain of police force and patrol services. Throughout the transition in leadership, “our hope is to have fresh ideas brought by the new VPCS to DPS to help us better meet the needs and desires of the Brown community as they relate to policing, customer service, safety education and crime prevention and deterrence,” Jackson wrote in an email to The Herald. Jackson and Carvalho will retain their interim positions within DPS until Chatman assumes his new role.

With additional reporting by Emily Faulhaber


Jack Walker

Jack Walker served as senior editor of multimedia, social media and post- magazine for The Herald’s 132nd Editorial Board. Jack is an archaeology and literary arts concentrator from Thurmont, Maryland who previously covered the Grad School and staff and student labor beats.

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