Dr. John N. Vinson became the seventh University of Washington Police Department Chief in February 2009. A graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy, his years of experience both in academia and law enforcement has led to comprehensive strategic planning for the department, including the launch of sector policing, and the construction of the new UWPD headquarters, a facility that is centrally located and specifically built for law enforcement. During Chief Vinson’s tenure, he has been active in both the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).
Chief Shanahan’s longtime Assistant Chief Roger Serra succeeded him as the top cop at the University of Washington. During Serra’s four years as chief of police, the University Police Department received the prestigious Jeanne Clery National Safe Campus Award in 1995, a First Place Award for a Federal/State Agency in the International Vehicle Design Competition in 1997 and was reaccredited by WASPC in 1998. Roger Serra retired as Chief of Police in June 1999.
Vicky M. (Peltzer) Stormo became the sixth Chief of Police in August of 1999. During her tenure, the department became nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. She retired in January of 2008.
The late 1960s and early 1970s saw many changes in society that affected the University Safety and Security Division as it evolved into the University of Washington Police Department. Repeatedly the department mobilized to respond to the tens of thousands of Vietnam War demonstrators who came to the university. Across the nation, university and college campuses became magnets for political discussions and activism and occasionally these activities ended in violence. The University Police awakened to this firsthand: the Administration Building was bombed once, Clark Hall (ROTC) was bombed twice and a second ROTC building set on fire. This was the situation when Michael G. Shanahan became chief of police in 1971.
One of Shanahan’s goals was to respond to the changes that the Vietnam era had created at the university. Crimes that had occurred only in the city of Seattle’s jurisdiction were now happening on campus. Shanahan used skilled personnel, new techniques and innovative programs to control growing crime rates. Chief Shanahan focused on the residence halls, community involvement and personal safety. Special Activities Patrols, the Crime Prevention Unit, a special “Blue Blazer” patrol for the residence halls and a Law Enforcement Explorer Post began in the 1970s. These programs had great success and gained national recognition. Ray Fisler, one of the founding officers of the “Blue Blazer” patrol, was invited to the White House for congratulations from the President of the United States. This success continued into the late 80s and early 90s when the University of Washington became the first agency accredited by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC). Shanahan’s involvement in both WASPC and the International Association of Police Chiefs helped him advance the professionalism of law enforcement in Washington state and across the nation. Chief Shanahan retired in June of 1995.
The Early Years
John Freeman was the first officer to serve at the University of Washington. He served during the summer of 1902, and with him the University Safety and Security Division was born. “Pop” Bloom served as the first chief, an ex-Prussian officer who rode a motorcycle and did not carry a gun. Once asked by a fellow officer what he would do if someone ever pulled a gun on him, Bloom responded by pulling a long bladed knife out of his belt and throwing it at the nearest wall. Fast and accurate, he proved that a gun was not a necessary part of his job. After Pop Bloom, the position of Chief passed to Herb Davies and then to Ed Kanz in 1950. Kanz came to the university after serving as the chief of police in Walla Walla, WA. He stayed at the university until his untimely death from a heart attack in 1971.