From Where We Are

USC has a new DPS chief

Lauretta Hill looks to better the relationship between DPS and USC students

Photo of a woman sitting cross-legged in a chair

Chief Hill is taking her new position in stride. Hosting a ‘get to know me and my department’ Q&A today in the Marshall school, Chief Hill made her commitment to revitalizing DPS through community outreach very clear.

Lauretta Hill: That bridge has been broken in our profession. And we know that it’s up to us to make sure that we have the olive branch. And we’re reaching out to try to rebuild that bridge of trust and, you know, to go both ways. But I know we have a lot of work to do on accountability.

Chief Hill tells me it is her personal responsibility to rebuild trust between DPS and the USC community they protect. DPS has fallen under fire in recent years due to claims of racial profiling and mishandling situations especially with international students. Chief Hill tells me the solution to the distance felt between students and their Public Safety Officials is solidifying a relationship before crucial moments.”

Hill: I want to take every opportunity to engage with students. And so I’m making myself available. And I was talking to Dr. Allard when we met about student affairs and the student, the different student groups. To meet them where they are, I said, “they don’t have to come to me. If they have Wednesdays where they play cards, I’ll go. If they have Tuesdays where they’re eating and it’s on Tommy Trojan, I’ll go. just make I’ll make myself available to meet and greet and talk with the students... We want you to have a relationship with us prior to you needing to call us for some kind of emergency. What I’m telling my my internal folks is that community policing and being out and engaging with our students is not a program. It’s a philosophy.

Chief Hill was called out of retirement to pursue this position at USC.

Hill: I think it’s important for this profession that I love for me to leave even better than I found it. I wouldn’t, if I left now, would be doing that, just to be honest.

She’s approaching this job with the recognition of work to be done, and a new cultural understanding of public safety. Some of the initiatives in the works currently are 45 community-suggested programs curated from a CAB board made of student, faculty, staff, and other surrounding community members. Chief Hill says those are her priority in office.

Hill: So the CAB was several listening sessions of student faculty, staff, community members that gave their input on how we reimagined policing. So kind of give us our guiding light, our guiding posts on where the community wanted DPS to go. You want this one vision where you do feel welcome, you feel respected, you feel that your diverse backgrounds and experiences are noted by DPS, and then we respond to you as an individual and not a call. And so that’s that’s what I want people to know about my philosophy. You are a person, not just a call, and we want to do whatever it takes to make sure that you feel safe and respected.

After the Q&A, a student approached Chief Hill with a specific issue she had last year with a DPS Officer. When asked about how Chief handles complaints before her time, she tells me.

Hill: Most comments brought up is is personal. So their interaction and you have to allow them their voice to be heard because what happened to them happened to them and it’s real to them. So sometimes just listening and answering that extra question and so I make myself available to do that. There is difference of being represented and different from feeling like you belong. I know those are two different things and I want people to feel like they feel they belong and I want to be part of that.

Chief Hill says she sees great potential in our department here, and is ready to get to work in making DPS just another department on campus that works to ensure and promote student success.