University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy MPA’03 has been a cop for 22 years. Standing at six feet four, he is a slightly intimidating presence—until you strike up a conversation. Brophy is warm, approachable, and dedicated to not only public service but the ultimate safety of everyone under his jurisdiction.
After serving as a patrol officer, detective, sergeant, and lieutenant with West Valley City starting in 1994, he made the transition to deputy chief at the U in 2013. And after the retirement of Chief Scott Folsom BS’87 MBA’99 in 2015, Brophy was named director of public safety, aka chief of police.
We sat down with the new chief to find out more about him, his force, and the biggest safety issues on campus.
CONTINUUM: How is policing different on a campus versus a city? What makes this force different from regular police in terms of training and issues they deal with?
CHIEF BROPHY: Campus policing is different in many ways, but the main difference is call volume. Working in a safe community such as the university allows my officers to be proactive in providing community service instead of running call to call. Campus police also face an ever-growing need to be the “ultimate” community service officer while maintaining a very high level of preparedness to respond to the real possibility of an active threat or large-scale mass casualty event.
What came as a surprise about this job?
A surprise about this job would be the dynamic nature of the campus community. There are many moving parts to this machine we call the “university,” and I am amazed on a regular basis at the collaboration and teamwork I witness and get to be a part of. The students, staff, and faculty do an amazing job of pulling together to get things done. There is really never a “down time” on campus, and that is evidenced by the more than 500 special events the department of public safety works on an annual basis.
What is your relationship with the Salt Lake City police? Are criminal cases tried in SLC courts?
We have an excellent relationship with the SLC Police Department. Our officers train together for events that will likely require a multi-agency response as well as work together during special events on campus. I take the opportunity whenever possible to network with the administration of the SLC Police Department. I also belong to several leadership groups throughout the state to build and maintain those type of relationships with all surrounding agencies.
All of our criminal cases on campus either end up in Salt Lake Justice Court or the Salt Lake [County] District Attorney’s Office. We are also unique in the fact that we can refer students for discipline to the Dean of Students’ office for generally minor, first-time offenses in lieu of criminal sanctions.
What keeps you up at night, or, what is your biggest challenge currently on campus?
The possibility of an active threat occurring on campus has caused me some sleepless nights. I also take providing a professional service to our community very seriously. As such, we spend a lot of time and money on training our officers and detectives to ensure we are providing the service our community expects.
What types of calls are you most commonly responding to as a force?
Our most common call for service on campus is theft, in particular, bike theft. If it is not watched, locked up properly, or bolted down, it can be stolen. Most of the thefts on campus are crimes of opportunity, which means the thief doesn’t really work that hard to take the item. Bikes locked with skinny cable-style locks are easily defeated with a pair of handheld bolt cutters; laptops left on the table while using the restroom are easily picked up and taken.
Have you changed your approach to sexual assault crimes in view of the current climate?
These cases are often very difficult and rarely black and white. Since I took office as the chief, our approach to sexual assaults has always been the same. We start by believing and then conduct a trauma-informed investigation. The investigator follows the facts of the case, completes a very thorough investigation into all sides of the complaint, and prepares the case for review by the District Attorney’s Office.
Do students take advantage of safety programs like RAD (Rape Aggression Defense, a self-defense class) and police escorts? Do you wish more would?
The students do take advantage of our safety escorts, and RAD is well attended. Having said that, we would love for there to be an overwhelming demand for both if the students, staff, and faculty feel the need for the service. That is the very reason we are here, to help our community to be and feel as safe as possible.
What is the most difficult offense you have dealt with?
Over the past 22 years, I have seen just about every type of offense possible. The offenses that are most difficult are those that involve the loss of life. Whether it’s a homicide, a traffic accident, or a suicide, it’s very difficult at times to process the information and not internalize the emotion. This is especially hard when dealing with the survivors of the tragedy such as parents, brothers/sisters, friends, etc. Their loss is very real, and there is nothing you can do to change the outcome.
How could students, faculty, and staff make your job easier?
Our community could make our job easier by educating themselves as to the common crimes that occur on campus and doing their part to help prevent them. This is easy to do by viewing our annual security report, which is published every year on or before October 1. report outlines crime statistics for campus, has an extensive list of on and off campus resources, and provides a great start to keeping oneself safe on campus.
What would you like to accomplish in the next year?
We are working hard on our community outreach and our emergency management functions. We have recently dedicated three officers to our community outreach program with the goal of reaching out to every business unit, building, and group on campus to offer our training presentations on a variety of topics that affect the campus. We have also added two full-time emergency management employees who are working to improve our capabilities and level of preparedness should we experience an emergency on campus.
The U’s Department of Public Safety (UUDPS) has 34 trained law enforcement officers and 79 security guards, and campus is patrolled around the clock. As of November, there were 1,459 security cameras on campus and roughly 500 more at University Hospital—all with feeds monitored in real time—and the U planned to install another 450 cameras within the next six months.
UUDPS offers numerous programs to increase personal safety and awareness. New students and employees are taken through an orientation that educates about sexual assaults, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, with an overview of prevention, consent, reporting procedures, and support resources. The trainings are also provided for the university’s athletics teams, sororities, fraternities, and other groups, such as students being placed in internships. The rest of the offerings are optional, including but not limited to:
U Heads Up!—This mobile app allows users to upload photos or comments about safety concerns around campus. Police, facilities, or other departments are then notified for a timely response. The app also provides a quick-reference campus emergency response guide and delivers notifications from the Campus Alert system.
After Dark Escort—At night, or in any uncomfortable situation, university security personnel or police officers will come to your main campus location and walk or drive you to your residence hall, car, shuttle, bus, or TRAX stop. For this service, call (801) 585-2677. The service is available 24/7.
Emergency Phones—Blue-light emergency phones are strategically placed for direct access to U dispatchers to report an emergency.
Start by Believing—A public awareness campaign to change the way people respond to personally shared reports of rape and sexual assault, beginning with responding in a supportive and caring manner. Learn more about the campaign here.
Coffee with Cops—The force holds two events (spring and fall) at the Marriott Library Plaza, where anyone can come and meet with officers, who discuss and hand out information about crimes on campus, including sexual assault resources.