DPS executive director John Thomas retires

Chief John Thomas stands in front of a building wearing a suit.
Department of Public Safety Chief John Thomas was involved with the DPS Cadet Program. (Photo courtesy of USC News)

USC Department of Public Safety Chief John Thomas is retiring, Senior Vice President David Wright announced in a communitywide memo Monday. 

Thomas, who worked on improving officer training standards since his appointment as DPS chief in 2016, will remain in the role until a nationwide search for his replacement concludes. Thomas was also involved with the DPS Community Advisory Board and DPS Cadet Program. Under Thomas, every cadet who graduated from the program continued onto college, with six attending USC.

In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Thomas said he believes the DPS Cadet Program is his biggest legacy. The program welcomes first-generation students from the surrounding community to USC to learn about the value of a college education. Since 2014, each student who went through the program went on to attend college. 

“Over the course of 15 years, I’ve met so many great students and I’m still in contact with some of them,” Thomas said. “I think I just fell in love with that atmosphere and knowing how instrumental I was in keeping them safe and just getting to know them.”

Thomas also recalled his first days working with DPS, feeling daunted by high crime rates and a large student body in what he described as a “chaotic” system. While he said he didn’t plan on staying longer than two years, Thomas said he’s glad he did. He felt ready to retire this year, having “confidence” in the Community Advisory Board.

“USC has afforded me so many great opportunities,” Thomas said. “ It’s one thing to be the chief of the DPS, but it’s another thing for students to still stay in touch … . That’s amazing to me and that’s something I think I would have never got to experience.”

David Carlisle, assistant Chief of DPS, said that Thomas has been a very well respected chief through his work of keeping students safe and investment in community outreach initiatives.

“Chief Thomas and I are friends as well as colleagues, we have worked together at DPS since late 2006,” Carlisle said. “We both worked together for the last 15 years, and we’ve seen a lot of positive changes at DPS under his leadership — both as a captain, as the assistant chief and the last nine years as chief. We made a lot of improvements for a lot of great people from the department.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated that Chief John Thomas started the DPS Cadet Program. Chief Thomas was involved with the DPS Cadet Program. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.