The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Police chief candidates under consideration

University police department vehicles are parked north of Main Campus Building, outside the police department’s headquarters. Rick Trefzer, assistant vice president of finance and administration, confirmed Texas A&M-San Antonio’s administration is reviewing applicants to fill the vacant chief of police position.

By Jacob Beltran

An employment search for university chief of police is currently in progress and administrators are reviewing candidates.

Rick Trefzer, vice president of finance and administration, said the employment posting was removed from the university’s Human Resources website earlier this week because they have a pool of candidates they are reviewing. The description was posted mid-February.

The position was left vacant after the previous chief of police, John E. Coleman, former associate vice president for campus safety and security, officially resigned Jan. 11.

Trefzer confirmed that he is currently overseeing the University Police Department.

“Sergeant Lopez is overseeing day-to-day police activities,” Trefzer said, adding that “we are moving forward with identifying a replacement through our standard hiring process.”

‘Keeping it in line’

UPD Sgt. Robert Lopez said that day-to-day operations have not been affected by the absence of a university police chief.

Lopez said the department includes two sergeants, one corporal and 10 patrol officers. UPD oversees the patrol of two buildings located at Main and Brooks City-Base campuses. The campuses are separated by a distance of 10 miles.

UPD is responsible for the safety of approximately 3,945 students, the official population listed after the spring term census date.

In addition to police chief, a position was listed Jan. 31 on the university’s employment page for a police communications operator. A second sergeant, Christopher Tingwald, was hired in February.

“We’re just keeping it in line and making sure that the officers keep the department running as smooth as we can,” Lopez said.

Pending litigation

Coleman was hired by Texas A&M-San Antonio in 2010 as police chief and was paid a $75,000 annual salary, according to data from the Texas Tribune’s state salary database.

An employee profile, still visible on the university website as of March 2, lists the university’s former police chief as associate vice president for campus safety and security/chief of police.

The profile describes the former police chief as having academic and professional expertise, including 30 years of policing experience, and a doctorate in Higher Education Administration with a specialization in Criminal Justice from Nova Southeastern University.

The former police chief resigned after months of conflict, during which he filed an EEOC complaint about “ongoing sexual harassment and retaliation occurring in the Department of Finance and administration,” according to Bexar County court documents filed December 31, 2012.

Coleman filed an employment whistle-blower lawsuit against the university seeking $50,000 in damages for “adverse personnel actions that were result of” his “report of illegal conduct.”

The plaintiff’s original petition reads in part: “In July of 2011, Coleman reported acts of ongoing sexual harassment and retaliation by other supervisors of Texas A&M University-San Antonio within the Division of Finance and Administration against a fellow coworker.”

The suit was reported in a Nov. 26, 2012  San Antonio Express-News article, which summarized details from court documents, including alleged harassment, retaliation, and an email breach to Coleman’s university email account.

Coleman said in a recent phone interview that the case was being handled in Travis County, but because of a rule that A&M-San Antonio cases can only be examined in Bexar County, the case was listed as disposed and moved to the Bexar County court.

The defendants, listed in court documents as Texas A&M-San Antonio and The Texas A&M University System, argue that Coleman and “this Court has no jurisdiction for claims against The Texas A&M University System.”

The system also calls on the statute of limitations, arguing Coleman’s claims were “made outside the 90-day limitations period for filing a whistle-blower suit.”

After multiple calls to Trefzer over a two week period, Trefzer requested that questions from the student newspaper be sent to him via email.

Criminology professor Durant Frantzen said that it’s common for parties involved in civil lawsuits not to discuss the details of the case with those not involved.

“It’s because the case is pending; it’s pretty typical,” he said. “Anytime there’s a lawsuit pending, parties are going to be reluctant to give information about it.”

UPD accreditation, certification projects

Lopez said that Coleman was working on accreditation and certification efforts for the university’s police department before his resignation.

Trefzer said he could not speak specifically about those programs.

“Our primary objective is to ensure that we are providing a safe and secure campus for faculty, staff, students, and visitors,” Trefzer said. “UPD specific accreditation or certifications efforts have not been reassigned at this point in time.”

Coleman said in a recent telephone interview that his goals were to have UPD accredited with the international association of campus law enforcement administrators and the Texas Police Chiefs Association.

“It was to show we adhere to the best practices,” he said. “We would’ve been the second institution in San Antonio to be accredited, aside from UTSA.”

He said obtaining accreditation was a year-long process that involved developing and approving UPD’s processes with the organizations.

Trefzer said that UPD specific accreditation or certification efforts have not been reassigned at this point in time.

As police chief, Coleman acquired two police cars and tactical response gear in case of an active shooter situation, Lopez said.

In addition to his responsibilities at this institution, Coleman was elected by fellow chiefs and security directors to serve a two-year term as chairman of the Texas A&M University System Law Enforcement Administrators Council.

According to the website, the Council is established as a collaborative group representing each system university police department.

Coleman said that after his resignation, Felipe Garza, A&M-Kingsville police chief, was elected as chair of the council in his place. Coleman confirmed that he is no longer a member of the council. Calls to verify with the Law Enforcement Administrators Council were not returned in time for publication.

Building resources

As for the role of a university police chief here at A&M-San Antonio, Frantzen said the responsibilities of a chief is different here as opposed to a more established university.

“It’s more about building and acquiring resources and preparing for growth,” he said. “An already existing police chief would be developing more crime specific strategies. We don’t have those issues that a large university would, like University of Texas Arlington (UTA) or University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA).”

Criminal statistics for Texas A&M-San Antonio through 2012 are listed here, in accordance with the Clery Act.

About the Author

Jacob Beltran
Jacob Beltran
Jacob Beltran is the Public Editor of The Mesquite, appointed by Texas A&M-San Antonio’s Student Media Board. Jacob is a communication-journalism major and attended San Antonio College where he served as Web Editor on The Ranger, San Antonio College’s award-winning newspaper. He is a 2008 St. Anthony’s Catholic High School graduate and is pursuing a career as a photographer and investigative journalist/magazine writer. Jacob is a part-time editorial assistant at the San Antonio Express-News.

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