Hassan Ramzah, the new chief of police for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department, has dedicated 30 years to serving in law enforcement and continues to strive for integrity and openness within UNLPD and the UNL community.
Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance William Nunez announced Ramzah as UNLPD’s next chief of police on July 14. Ramzah served as UNLPD’s interim chief of police since July 2019 and started at UNLPD as an assistant police chief in August 2016.
Ramzah is the first Black chief of police in the over 90-year history of UNLPD, which he said he hopes will encourage others to follow a similar career path.
Ramzah said that before being selected to serve as UNLPD’s assistant police chief in 2016, he served 6 years in the U.S. Army and 26 years with the Wichita Police Department in various ranks and assignments.
“I wanted to continue to serve the community, and I believed law enforcement was the best choice to do so,” Ramzah said in an email.
During UNL football game days, the police department puts in usually 10 or more hours following a more than 40-hour workweek, Megan Witherspoon, director of communications and support for UNLPD, said in an email. She said Ramzah’s strengths and leadership show during UNL athletic events.
“Hassan acts with utmost integrity — he is deliberate in making decisions and considers all stakeholders,” Witherspoon said in an email. “He is kind, patient and positive.”
Witherspoon said she met Ramzah when she served on the search committee for his position as assistant police chief. Over the last year, Ramzah continued his full-time role as assistant police chief in addition to being named UNLPD’s interim police chief, which she said were demanding roles.
Witherspoon said Ramzah responds to emails well into the early morning hours and rarely takes time off.
“He really does have the best interest of the campus and university police department in mind and will put the needs of others above his own,” Witherspoon said.
Ramzah said he had the goal of pursuing the position of chief of police at UNLPD prior to working there. Ramzah said having the opportunity to serve as the interim police chief allowed him to expand his knowledge and experience and identify ways he can help contribute to the department and safety of the UNL community.
Ramzah said he and UNLPD have several initiatives they plan to work on in the next year. Ramzah said these initiatives include creating opportunities to increase UNLPD’s engagement and outreach with the campus community, increasing de-escalation training for officers, reviewing UNLPD’s current policies and improving officer recruitment initiatives.
“I think there is an opportunity for us to learn about policing in a campus environment and about our role in contributing to successful outcomes for all students,” Ramzah said. “We want to continually improve and provide the best campus safety services we possibly can.”
Though he has several priority initiatives, Ramzah said the more immediate one is to focus on conversations and engagement between UNLPD and the campus community and policing.
In the next few weeks, Ramzah and UNLPD plan to expand the Police Advisory Board so it represents more diverse voices, including representation from the Black community, according to a message from Ramzah to the UNL community.
Within the Police Advisory Board, Ramzah said he and UNLPD will look closer at UNLPD’s policies and training to find new ways to improve the UNL community and its relationship with UNLPD.
With renewed discussion about police brutality and Black Lives Matter protests happening across the country following the death of George Floyd, Ramzah said there is an opportunity for UNLPD to learn and contribute to successful outcomes for all students.
“Police misconduct and abuse is not acceptable,” Ramzah said. “We are entrusted by the public to serve as protectors and that should not only be rooted in our culture but also how we approach our day-to-day contacts with the community.”
In his message to the UNL community, Ramzah said the death of Floyd was senseless and inhumane, and the impact of Floyd’s death has been felt by everyone across the world, particularly within the Black community.
“In the wake of the death of George Floyd and too many others, we know we must do more,” Ramzah said in the message.
Carrie Hulsey-Greene, manager of reputation management/media relations for University Communication and member of the chief of police search committee, said the committee’s first meeting was in mid-to-late March.
There were 24 applicants nationwide, and each search committee member reviewed each applicant, resulting in six applicants after the first round of elimination, according to Hulsey-Greene.
Two of the six applicants declined to be interviewed, so the remaining four applicants were scheduled for interviews, according to Hulsey-Greene. Out of the four applicants, the search committee asked Ramzah and Rodney Clark, chief of police at Wichita State University, to do in-person campus interviews on July 6 and 7.
However, Hulsey-Green said Clark communicated to Nunez and withdrew his application for the UNLPD police chief position before the interviews took place.
Hulsey-Green said she looked for someone who had been in policing before and had experience in command positions, building unity in policing and doing community engagement. She said she also looked for qualifications more specific to UNL, like having a good sense of what policing on a college campus is like and having had experience doing large-scale events, similar to UNL athletic events.
Ramzah said he is ready to start his plans of improvement for UNLPD and the UNL community as UNLPD’s chief of police.
“I look forward to the upcoming academic year and working with our UNLPD team to promote a safe campus environment for students, faculty, and staff,” Ramzah said.