Getting to Know the New Police Chief

June 29, 2018

Alice Cary, MSAlice Cary, MS, took over as police chief at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) on June 11. A native of Flint, Mich., Cary, 54, brings 32 years of law enforcement experience to the post, having served in Michigan, Wyoming, and Oregon, most recently as patrol operations captain with the University of Oregon Police Department. In her first week at UMB, she sat down with Chris Zang from the Office of Communications and Public Affairs. The following is a longer version of the interview excerpts that will appear in the July/August President’s Message. 

Chris Zang Question:
My sister lives in Portland, so I know what a beautiful place Oregon is. How did UMB get you to leave Oregon for Baltimore? 

Chief Cary Answer:
I was at a point in my career where I began exploring various police chief positions, and the search firm for UMB reached out. Upon visiting here, it felt really good. I’m originally from Michigan, so Baltimore felt like coming home for me. That’s what stuck with me after my first trip, the connection and I knew I really wanted to be here.

Question: Good. We’re glad you’re here.

Answer: Me, too.

Question: Briefly recap your time at the University of Oregon Police Department.

Answer: I was hired there as a sergeant in 2014 and quickly rose to lieutenant. While I was lieutenant, I became interim chief for several months while the search for our chief was conducted. Shortly after the chief was hired, I was promoted to captain of patrol operations. 

Question: You grew up in Flint, Mich. Were you born there?

Answer: Yes, born and raised in the Flint, Mich., area. I went on to undergrad school in Western Michigan and started my law enforcement career in the Flint and Saginaw, Mich., area.

Question: Any advanced degrees?

Answer: I have an MS, a master’s in science in criminal justice management.

Question: You later served as a state trooper with the Wyoming Highway Patrol, deputy sheriff in Fremont County, drug task force special agent and police officer in Riverton, Wyo.

Answer: Yes. It’s all within the Wind River Indian Reservation. So I went through the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs Academy, which is a mini-academy, to become deputized to have tribal law enforcement authority on the reservation.

Question: You’re a drug recognition expert and you set a record for DUI arrests in Wyoming.

Answer: Yes, as a state trooper.

Question: How did you get to Wyoming in the first place?

Answer: Well, I spent 11 years working on the east side of Saginaw, and it’s a pretty rough area. When I traveled to the West as a child, I admired the beauty and the vastness, so my husband and I took the opportunity to move to the least-populated state. We ended up in Riverton where the Wind River Indian Reservation is located, and that was yet another cultural environment new to me, but yet, you know, it really expanded my experiences.

Question: A friend of mine was in Great Falls, Mont., for a while. He was from here and talked about driving for hours without passing anyone.

Answer: Same as Wyoming. You can see for miles and miles and miles, but it has some brutal winters there. Temperatures of 30 below and the wind’s blowing because the wind always blows in Wyoming. It’s just like culture shock.

Question: Culturally, urban Baltimore and desolate Wyoming couldn’t be farther apart. What makes you think your experiences there, and in Oregon, will translate to Baltimore?

Answer: Well, I spent 11 years working on the east side of Saginaw [Mich.], and it’s pretty rough there. So I had that urban background, and then moving to Wyoming and adapting to yet another diverse culture has certainly brought my depth of experiences to a threshold that a lot of people have never experienced, two different dynamics there. So collectively, being in urban policing in Baltimore is nothing that’s going to shock me and is easily adaptable for my personality and my experiences in law enforcement, and, you know, life in and of itself.

Question: You also were a criminal investigator for Lane County District Attorney’s Office in Oregon. That was more of a non-policing role, right? 

Answer: That was a sworn position. I was deputized as a sheriff. So we had full police authority throughout the state and my main title was domestic violence investigator. I started out as a criminal investigator and then moved over to domestic violence and sex assault investigations. I did investigations in Wyoming, too. I was on a drug task force there for a while.

Question: And all of these experiences have made you the person that … 

Answer: Yeah, here I am.

Question: So you’re bringing everything with you.

Answer: Yeah, I have a plethora of experiences, for sure.

Question: And in journalistic terms, I buried the lead. You were the first female police chief at UMB, dating to the police force being established in 1948. The last seven chiefs and interim chiefs have been men, and the last three chiefs have been black men. How would you answer skeptics who say the job isn’t one for a woman, especially a white woman?

Answer: Interesting question. Well, throughout my career in law enforcement, I never looked at gender as an issue, ever, as a determining factor whether I could do the job or not. Knowing your abilities as a law enforcement officer sets us apart. We’re still individuals, even though people think of police as police, they “group think” us. 

I know my abilities and know I am different in my strengths and different in my approaches. Women bring a lot of passion and empathy and intuition to the job, so I learned to work with counterparts whether they’re female, male, black,  or white. We’re all here and should be here for the same mission and ethical purposes for the integrity of keeping our University and, on a larger scale, our society safe.

Question: At the police candidates’ town hall in March, you spoke of being operations commander at the University of Oregon Police Department when the Olympic Trials were there, and if I heard it right, you brought 3 million people to your campus for two weeks. 

Answer: Right.

Question: Was that the toughest police challenge you faced? You’ve obviously faced a lot of things in your career.

Answer: It was one. I think strategically it was the toughest challenge because of the moving parts and the partnerships that you have to maintain. The preplanning started like 18 months prior to that and I wasn’t there at the beginning of the 18 months, but I came in midstream, so I had a lot of catching up to do. But it’s like herding cats, you know, trying to schedule that and trying to work cooperatively with the larger agencies, but it went well because of all the preplanning and cooperation with my law enforcement partners.

Question: And the partners were what? Federal, local …?

Answer: Yes, federal, state, and local law enforcement.

Question: And when you talked about the 3 million people, is that athletes, that’s visitors, that’s fans, that’s …

Answer: Yes, and that’s from all over the world that came.

Question: I heard you use the phrase “persistence over resistance.” You’re obviously a fighter for what you believe in. Of all the things you could have done in life, why police work?

Answer: Well, you know growing up in Michigan, it’s the auto industry. Historically all my family, most of my family, has worked for GM in one capacity or another and initially I was following suit. But I began thinking outside the box even as a child. You know, I really don’t want to do the automobile industry, so I started thumbing through a catalog and I read what criminal justice has and I thought, wow, that would be something that I wouldn’t have to do the same thing every day. I could be outside. I could interact with people. I could do different things. It’s never the same thing every day. 

So that kind of intrigued me, and I’ve always liked to go hunting with my dad and I was kind of a tomboy-type person that enjoyed the outdoors. And I admired people in uniform as a youth. I just kind of would stop and look at them and go wow. So after I graduated, my mother told me like a great-great grandfather was sheriff way down the line that I never knew. So it’s kind of funny there. There was some history there. I didn’t know it.

Question: She probably didn’t want you to know that beforehand.

Answer: Right, to encourage me more because they weren’t real happy when I changed my curriculum in college. But look at me now. I remind her.

Question: And your college took place where?

Answer: At Ferris State University. That’s in Big Rapids, Mich.

Question: You stressed the need for enhanced technology and better communications when you spoke at the town hall for police chief candidates. It might be too early, but can you give one example of each that you think might improve the UMB Police Force?

Answer: You know, there’s always new and improved ideas in order to keep our buildings and our people who are actively in and out of these buildings safer. Society’s moving forward in technological advances, and I think law enforcement needs to keep up with those as well. But that includes other equipment that law enforcement need to keep our society safe and secure as well.

So there’s drone technology, there’s all kinds of computer technology and cameras, there’s different technology for scenario-based training for law enforcement officers so that includes “shoot, don’t shoot,” but also de-escalation and implicit bias training. Virtual training allows a lot of officers to get trained that way. Online training is another source for officers to learn quickly, and it’s efficient.

As far as communication is concerned, there’s so many different avenues for communication through social media. That’s another technological advancement so we can get the message out very quickly so that the community is informed of certain situations and it shows transparency as well. 

Question: Since transparency was a big part of your presentation, toward that end are body cameras coming to UMB?

Answer: Body cameras are first and foremost. That’s on my needs/wants/wishes list. We’re already exploring grant opportunities from the government to equip us and so I’ve reached out to some of my staff to different vendors which will give us different body cams so that perhaps we’d contract with them. We’re getting that rolling within my first week here. Body cams are huge in transparency and accountability. And it’s good for officer safety.

And as far as other transparency, I’ve been looking to host an open house for the police department, encourage ride-alongs, expand the civilian review board. Having that open-door policy is like inviting the community to be a part of us. So that’s how we learn from one another. That’s internal and external, too.

Question: They’ve already started some outreach: Coffee with a Cop, for instance.

Answer: Yeah, that’s good. We’re going to have pizza with the chief. The chief loves pizza. 

Question: Talk about the surrounding community. Obviously UMB’s been reaching out with the Community Engagement Center, the CURE Scholars Program, Police Athletic/Activities League, other initiatives. What role do you think the UMB Police Force needs to be playing in community engagement?

Answer: I think that’s huge. Campus engagement is one of my bigger projects and one that I’m very passionate about, especially in campus law enforcement. Being a part of that connects us with the community and helps us get the feedback of what their needs are, and we can prioritize those needs. We need to humanize the badge, show our neighbors that what’s behind the badge is a passionate person who cares about the community. We must be visible, which gives the community an opportunity to see and know us. So being connected, you know it’s huge. The rewards of community engagement are tenfold, and that should be a common practice and philosophy in moving forward.

Question: You’ve described yourself as a visionary and very creative. Some of the ideas you mentioned, the ride-alongs, I think it was at the town hall you mentioned students possibly accompanying a police officer?

Answer: Yes. 

Question: Police yoga? 

Answer: Yes.

Question: Fitness classes?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Mental health through police peer support programs? 

Answer: Yes.

Question: Some would say the UMB Police Force, whether it’s earning accreditation awards or achieving low crime statistics, is fine as it is. Why rock the boat?

Answer: Like I always say, you’ve got to keep people engaged. You’ve got to keep your careers enhanced, your job enriched. You’ve got to have career development. There’s so many officers that have expertise in let’s say motorcycles or canines or other avenues that people want to specialize in, and it keeps them engaged in their profession and it helps with connecting with the community when they have a tool they can utilize to connect with the community better.

That shows with the officer wellness, you know we’re going to have a healthy, robust police force because you know having the mental stability and the avenues to vent stressors will reduce mistakes on the street. So giving these job enrichment opportunities, I think that keeps our retention solid and it grows our staff professionally.

Question: It’s human nature to be a little bit uncomfortable with change.

Answer: Oh yes, good or bad changes are stressful.

Question: Are there any assurances that I can use this to give to members of the police force? I’m assuming there are some people wondering, “What’s going to happen to me?”

Answer: Right, and that’s what my purpose and my scope is — the line officers who are out there every day. I never forgot where I started from and what the needs were there. I plan on meeting with everyone individually. It’s going to take me some time, but I’m going to do that, to see what they would like to see in this agency and if they were the new chief coming in, what would they implement and how? They’re a big part of this.

Question: You’re also a wife and a proud mother, with a 26-year-old son, staff sergeant, U.S. Air Force, who disarms bombs in Germany?

Answer: Yes. 

Question: How does being a wife and mom make you a better police administrator, or law enforcement person?

Answer: Being a mother, you’re naturally a manager because you could juggle a multitude of things, especially a working mother, you know? So I’ve worked the shift work and I’ve managed to have a normal life with raising a young son, having a partner to listen and guide and vice versa, in the listening and doing skills. So I think that’s essential for relationships, both professional and personal.

Question: My wife would agree. Is it too early to discuss goals? What are some of the first things you want to do?

Answer: I made a list of them. Right now, I’m at 36 on my list. So I mean …

Question: And this is your fourth day on the job, right? 

Answer: Yes, but a lot of it’s imagery, equipment and training, and trying to prioritize our needs, and that’s getting engagement programs going and I need to get to know the people so I know the right person for the right position as far as certain programs that I have coming as far as community engagement. 

The equipment like the motorcycles, I’m going to look at other modes of transportation other than just patrol cars. When I see the traffic here, it’s hard for response time. I like the electric vehicles like the electric motorcycles, they’re kind of a dual-sport motorcycle, and they’re a talking piece for engagement, too, and we can get from Point A to Point B quicker, and if I understand it correctly, electric vehicles can travel on sidewalks, but I’ll have to do more research to ensure this is accurate. 

Question: Yeah, they’ve got the upright things for the alleys …

Answer: Yes, the Segways. The two-wheeled Segways I’m not real fond of because of the high likelihood of causing injury. The three-wheeled ones, yes, but I would like to see something like an electric vehicle that would get help with escorting and making sure that our students, faculty, and staff get from Point A to Point B safely and efficiently.

I’m reviewing some officer wellness programs like a solid fitness program, so officers will have the opportunity  to do their yoga, their meditation, and work out. So I’d like to see a fitness program implemented, to name a few. 

Question: That’s good. What type of reception have you been getting?

Answer: Oh, it’s been great. It’s welcome, Chief, smiles, and anything you need, Chief, we’re here to help you. The personnel come up to me and shake my hand and say ”Glad you’re here.” So I’m very optimistic. Everyone I’ve met has been very pleasant and supportive.

Question: Was that the response you thought you were going to get?

Answer: I think it’s more than I expected. It’s warmer than I expected, and it’s encouraging to see the anticipation of changes for a different direction that they may want this department to go, and that’s what I’ll find out more when I meet with everyone. I anticipate sending out an anonymous survey both internally and externally. I want the community and the department to give us feedback of what changes they would like to see. You know this first couple of months I’m meeting with my internal partners and we’re collectively seeing if there’s a pattern of concern or what they’d like to see from our agency in moving forward.

Question: Less than a week into the job, is there anything that has surprised you so far?

Answer: Nothing so far. But you know this is Day 4, so I’m sure they’re coming. Things are ever-changing, but I’m excited to meet everyone. I know that it’s going to take me a long time to get through more than 150 department members individually, but I find it very important to know who they are and why they like working here. There’s some longevity here. I met a security officer today. She was in plain clothes. She was going to work, and she stopped me on the sidewalk and introduced herself and said this is her 37th year or something like that. That says a lot about this agency with the longevity and dedication that’s here. 

Question: What’s next for you?

Answer: We’re getting through my police certification here in Maryland, so I went through my lie detector test, my psychological test, my drug test, my fingerprints, my background check, and firearms qualification. So as soon as I get my uniform, we’ll be off and running. It’ll be good to be visible and available. I’m big on marketing ourselves as a police department so there is no question we are proudly serving the University of Maryland, Baltimore. That’s one of the things my staff and I are working on as well. Those are good changes, and I’m going to make as many easy changes as I can first off. Any major change(s) will wait six to nine months down the road once I am more familiar with the day-to-day operations and procedures (only if there are any needed changes). Regardless of any change, it will always be our priority to keep our campus safe and secure.

Question: Great. Well it’s been a pleasure. Welcome aboard!

Answer: Thank you very much.

UMB Police Force Leaders

  • 1948: Police force established
  • 1975: Officers became official police officers
  • 1976 - 1982: John J. Cunningham, Police Chief
  • 1983 - 2000: John Collins, Director of Public Safety
  • 2000 - 2002: James P. Nestor, Police Chief
  • 2003 - 2007: Edward Ballard, Interim Police Chief
  • 2007 - 2010: Cleveland Barnes, Police Chief
  • 2010 - 2017: Antonio Williams, Police Chief
  • 2017 - 2018: Martinez Davenport, Interim Police Chief
  • 2018 - Present: Alice Cary, Police Chief
  • Compiled by Tara Wink
    Health Sciences and Human Services Library 

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