Rus Drew, police chief of Columbus State University (CSU) (Ga.), will become Emory’s new police chief Tuesday, Nov. 1. Drew comes to Emory after more than 30 years of working in law enforcement, primarily on college campuses.
Former Emory Police Chief Craig Watson was promoted last February to assistant vice president for public safety, a newly established position. Since then, the chief position has been vacant.
Drew’s new position at Emory will remain largely similar to the one he held at CSU.
In any police department, the chief’s responsibility is to oversee the entire staff, but on a college campus, there is a larger focus on community relations, Drew said.
“In a campus environment, you have the opportunity to be much more customer-centered and customer-focused,” said Watson, who hired Drew. “We really try to present to our staff that we’re in a customer-service environment — we’re a business. We’re a service provider.”
Watson emphasized the importance of selecting a chief of police with experience working on a college campus.
“A campus community is different than a municipal agency and municipal community,” Watson said. “And at the same time, very high on our radar is ethics and integrity and a concentration on [the] customer-service aspect.”
Although Drew does not have any current plans to change Emory Police Department (EPD) operations, he said he will assess the situation when he arrives.
“EPD has a great reputation, not only in the state, but nationally in the campus law enforcement community,” Drew said. “My objective is to watch and learn and see where we can make enhancements, but … at this point I don’t have a pre-set agenda.”
Drew noted that working with the Atlanta Police Department, a much larger agency than that in Columbus, Ga., will be a transition for him. Large cities have many jurisdictions with which their police departments work. Drew said his previous experience working in large cities, including Atlanta, first as chief of police at Agnes Scott College for 16 years and then as assistant dean of students and director of campus safety at Oglethorpe University for four years, will help him to overcome this challenge.
Recent social pressure to change police climate will shape EPD’s practices, Drew said.
“We want to make sure that we are following the best of practices to encourage … transparency, absolutely a high level of accountability, and … the trust of all people within the Emory community,” he said.
In 2014, some CSU community members criticized their police department after an officer fatally shot a black man.
The individual was carrying a gun, according to police, and a grand jury recommended not filing charges. Drew was, at the time, the department’s chief.
He said it is important to address race relations before a serious incident occurs.
“You cannot take a reactive position with race relations,” Drew said. “That has to be a proactive part of our mission.”
He added that finding common ground is important and “at the end of the day, it’s about building trust.”