UP chief to leave at semester’s end

At the end of the spring semester USF will not only see hundreds of its students leave their alma mater, but the University will also lose one of its most significant figures – University Police Chief Pat Johnson.

Johnson is set to retire on May 31 because he is enrolled in the University’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP), “a program that allows you to retire without terminating your employment for up to five years while your retirement benefits accumulate and earn interest,” according to the Florida Division of Retirement Web site.

Johnson said he plans to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity and travel with his wife. For now, he is preparing to train his replacement to face challenges unlikely for typical police officers, since the force is based within the USF campus and surrounding areas.

“We’ve increased buildings and enrollment, but not the number of officers,” Johnson said. He said his replacement will need to enlarge the investigative section. Another problem is the issue of special events as USF enters the Big East conference.

“We are going to have to deal with that increased demand,” Johnson said. Johnson said it has been difficult to stay competitive with local forces in terms of salary and enticing recruits to work on campus. However, one benefit offered is the Master Officer Program, which the new chief will need to enhance and fund. The program allows officers to receive pay raises on his or her third, fifth, seventh and 10th year of work when he or she meets requirements in education and community involvement.

According to USF’s Human Resources Web site’s job listings, some of the requirements include 10 years experience as a certified police officer, a master’s degree in an appropriate field and completion of the FBI National Academy training. Another preferred requirement is five years in a leadership or managerial position.

“Chief is in charge of many aspects such as budget and leading officers,” said Elizabeth Kaplon, executive assistant of Student Affairs.

Kaplon is part of the search committee, which will make its first selections from the applicant pool on Jan. 27. The application deadline was Tuesday, and the committee is in the process of reviewing applications and resumes.

“We did a national search, advertising in professional, academic and minority chronicles and locally,” Kaplon said.

The selection process will span the length of the spring semester. In mid-February, semi-finalists will be interviewed over the phone. Four or five finalists will then be brought to USF for a two-day interview after which Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall will chose the new chief.

There are 64 applicants from all over the United States, most with master’s degrees and some with law degrees. Although mostly white males make up the group, a significant number of minorities have applied. Kaplon said five blacks and two Hispanics have applied.

She also said the committee is looking for a replacement who has experience working in an academic environment. The resumes included Florida State’s assistant chief, Clemson’s chief, interim chief from Florida Atlantic and officers from the State University of New York and University of Central Florida.

The committee plans to negotiate the replacement’s salary between $95,000-$110,000.