Following a months-long search, police chief Laurie Espinoza Clouse took office Feb. 4 as the first female chief at Texas State.
Clouse previously worked at UNT for 11 years. She started as a patrol officer and moved up the ranks before becoming their first female chief of police in 2017. She also worked for Witchita Falls Police Department for four years and CPS for one year.
Following the resignation of former police chief Jose Banales last May, the International Association of College Law Enforcement Administrators Peer Review Program conducted a general review of the Texas State University Police Department between Aug. 12-15. Five areas were highlighted as a top priority: community interaction, organization and management, operations and enforcement, Clery compliance and emergency management.
“The philosophy of community-oriented policing has not been fully adopted within the UPD,” the PReP stated, “through observation and internal and external interviews, found UPD to be perceived as predominantly reactive in its delivery of services to the community rather than proactive in its approach to campus safety and security.”
Clouse said the first thing she plans to do is to sit down with every employee at the police department and have a conversation about what can be improved. Afterward, she plans on talking to the Faculty Senate, Staff Council and various other groups around campus.
“When I was going through the process, one of the things that was really clear to me is that we’ve got to build relationships with various groups on campus,” Clouse said. “So that is going to be one of the top priorities, relationship building, making sure that the department is accessible, that the chief is accessible, that officers are accessible to people. Obviously, we serve the community and I think we can do a better job of messaging that to our students and faculty.”
Captain Rickey Lattie, the interim police chief, has worked for UPD for 35 years and has seen six different new chiefs of police. He said Clouse’s previous experience at UNT as chief of police for 10 years is what made her stand out from the four finalists for the position.
“She has university experience, that’s one of the key elements we were looking at,” Lattie said. “Somebody who has worked in a similar size university and has been a supervisor at a university, she has both those qualities.”
One of the things Clouse plans to bring with her from UNT is accreditation to the police department. Accreditation from the IACLEA is given to a police department that conforms to “the highest professional standards for campus law enforcement and protective services.” She participated in the process when UNT was becoming accredited and said it gives the community the confidence that the department is operating under best practices. The accreditation process is completed over a three to five -year process in conjunction with Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Its website states the benefits include increased community advocacy, support from government officials, and greater accountability within the agency.
Vice President of Financial Support and Services Eric Algoe had a leading role in the hiring committee for Clouse and believes she will bring a new level of professional development.
“I’m not sure how apparent this will be to students, but one of the things that I know Chief Clouse will bring is a kind of renewed commitment to professional development and training and implementing best practices for university law enforcement agencies,” Algoe said.
The PRep also states “the UPD lacks sufficient personnel to provide the level of police service and community engagement desired for a sprawling, dynamic, and diverse university campus and residential population.” In February 2018, The University Star reported a 20 percent staff shortage within the department.
Both Lattie and Algoe said there was a lack of qualified applicants. Currently, if everything is finalized with two current hires, there will be three open positions at the police department. Lattie said he did make some hires in his time as interim chief but decided to leave a couple of top positions, including the position of lieutenant, open so Clouse could hire her own command staff.
“There will be an organizational plan moving forward, so certainly we’ll fill the vacancies that we have,” Clouse said.
Clouse joined in the middle of a multimillion-dollar plan that was rolled out by Texas State starting last year. Eric Algoe says students can expect many more lights all around campus, as well as classroom doors that will be lockable from the inside.
However, when asked about solutions for on-campus theft, domestic violence, trespassing and campus carry, Clouse said she would need to look at the university’s stats regarding those issues first before coming up with a plan.