DPS Chief John Thomas announces retirement

A search committee will be created as the first step to finding Thomas’s replacement.

John Thomas, Executive Director and Chief of the USC Department of Public Safety (DPS) will retire after eight years in his role, according to a school-wide email from the Office of the Senior Vice President for Administration on Monday.

Thomas will remain at his post until his replacement is selected, “I have asked him to remain involved during the implementation process, and I appreciate his willingness to continue providing his perspective for both the DPS CAB and our next DPS Chief,” said David Wright, the senior vice president for administration.

Thomas joined DPS in 2006 as a captain and was appointed to the role of executive director and chief in 2013, where he has served since. According to the DPS website, Thomas headed one of the nation’s largest campus police forces with 306 full-time employees.

After his decade-and-a-half tenure at USC, Thomas’s impact is evident both on and off-campus, as was mentioned in Monday’s email.

By improving officer training standards and using a data-driven system to face crime, Thomas has “successfully professionalized the department.” He also helped create the Southern California College Campus Consortium, a group of campus public safety and police departments, according to the email.

Thomas also led the DPS Cadet Program, which teaches teenagers in the communities around the Health Sciences and University Park Campuses about safety services and provides them with academic support for college admission. According to the email, every cadet graduating from high school has gone on to college since he stepped into the leadership role in 2014.

He was also a team member on the Community Advisory Board (CAB), a community-run organization that focuses on social inequality in policing. The CAB report released on July 28 concluded that DPS could not be abolished. Thomas has worked to implement recommendations from the CAB, including pledging to hold DPS officers accountable for racial profiling.

Thomas’ legacy is not without criticism from students, who feel that he has mishandled several situations, including the Black Lives Matter Protests and the mistreatment of Black and brown student organizations during 2019 homecoming tailgates.

A nationwide search will be conducted to find Thomas’s replacement. According to the email, the first step in this process will be creating a search committee including faculty, staff, students, community and DPS CAB representatives. The search will then follow with listening sessions with members of the USC community and surrounding area.

In a statement to Annenberg Media, Wright wrote that the committee will be looking for a new chief that will be accessible to students and staff, improve upon professionalism and work closely with CAB towards becoming one of the safest urban college campuses.

“I am confident with the input and collaboration of our campus and community partners, we will find an outstanding new DPS Chief,” Wright wrote.