Search Committee to hire the new DPS chief

Following former Department of Public Safety Chief John Thomas’s retirement in January, USC announced a nationwide search for the next DPS chief. Associate Senior Vice President of Safety & Risk Assurance Erroll Southers will lead the process along with a 22-person committee that includes students, faculty, staff, community leaders and Spelman Johnson, an external executive search firm. The main objective for the new chief will be to implement the ONE USC Safety Vision report, which the DPS Community Advisory Board released last semester said Southers during a student media briefing Tuesday. 

“It’s going to be very important that, whoever our candidates are, they know those pillars and they can speak to it with some experience and expertise as it relates to accountability, transparency, alternatives to armed response and community care — all in hopes of reimagining and re-envisioning public safety,” Southers said.

The DPS Chief Search Committee will work throughout the spring semester to have a new chief installed by August. The committee began its process by selecting an executive search firm, which Southers said differs from previous search committee processes, in which a firm was preselected. Next, the committee will host six Community Input Sessions open to members of the University community Feb. 14 through Feb. 26.

Two members of the committee will lead the sessions alongside Southers, and each session will include discussions regarding the qualities attendees wish to see in the next chief, challenges they would like to be addressed and changes they would like to see with diversity and community inclusion. Community members will also have the opportunity to answer these questions while facilitators take notes. Once a researcher gathers all the information from the sessions the committee will use a quantitative analysis of the majority of participants’ desire in a chief to guide their process. 

The committee will then evaluate candidates and choose three finalists, who will attend another round for Community Input Sessions. Here, community members will have the opportunity to ask questions to each finalist and determine which one matches their vision of a DPS chief. Although there are no set deadlines, Southers said he hopes these sessions can take place during the beginning of April, with a candidate being chosen at the end of the month.

Southers said he recognizes that the process to find a new DPS chief will be “challenging.” However, he relies on his previous experience in similar processes, such as his participation in searches for multiple deans, to do an “aggressive and comprehensive search.”

“We have a very good opportunity right now to get the best person in the country,” Southers said.

Southers said the new chief would be someone who knows the University community and embraces it. Southers also looks to ensure that the selected person understands how the campus is different from traditional policing. 

“What’s pressing to the USC community is someone who emphasizes community care over enforcement,” Southers said. “We know that we need someone who is going to be able to embrace this community and someone who’s going to prioritize respect and treating people fairly over any other priorities that they may have.”