There’s a new top cop on campus: Rhonda L. Harris is set to take charge as the new assistant vice president for public safety and chief of police at Florida State University.
Harris comes with a 37-year career in law enforcement including her tenure as chief of police at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia since 2012.
Now, Harris prepares to fill the position in May as the second woman in FSU’s history as chief of police. Harris will replace Terri Brown, who retired in August after 30 years on the force at FSU.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead this department,” Harris said earlier this month in an FSU press release. “I’m looking forward to meeting the FSU community and working together to help ensure we maintain a safe campus environment.”
With the duty to oversee a fully accredited law enforcement agency with approximately 80 sworn officers, Harris embraces the responsibility in a police department to lead an ethical and fair department.
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“As a leader, you want to support the officers and staff members, provide the training, equipment, and professional development opportunities to allow them to develop their leadership potential to its fullest,” Harris told the Democrat.
Harris found herself sought after by a recruiter from Security and Investigative Placement, the search firm hired by FSU. She shared that she was unaware of the positions opening, and that at the time, she was not looking for a new job.
Learning more about the university’s “solid professional reputation,” Harris was convinced to submit her resume and letter of interest for the position.
Harris says that her ultimate decision to accept the new role was attributed to the individuals she met during her visit to campus: “I was struck by their positive outlook on FSU as an institution and as an employer.”
In a press release, Vice President of Finance and Administration Kyle Clark said Harris’ credentials and track record of success help make her a welcome addition at FSU.
“The safety of our students and the entire campus community is a responsibility that we take very seriously,” Clark said. “Her dedication to public safety and decades of experience, including serving campus communities, make her a great fit.”
Harris’ new role will consist of supervising law enforcement, campus access and security services, emergency management, and transportation and parking services on campus properties.
Chief Harris plans on maintaining a safe environment between students, faculty, campus safety, and the community by listening and learning from each on-campus constitute group, the broader community, and from the members of public safety.
After assessing the current safety of the area, and identifying the appropriate concerns, she plans to leverage evidence-based programs, crime reduction strategies, and technologies in combination with the skills, knowledge and abilities of the public safety team to design effective ways to maintain a safe environment.
Harris comes to the sunshine state with an impressive resume, graduating from the FBI National Academy Session #232 and Harvard Kennedy School for Executive Education. Harris began her career in 1989 at Rutgers before working her way up to chief of police in 2006.
Contact Democrat Writer Mariah Wiggs at Mwiggs1@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter @WiggsMariah.