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April 22, 2022

Chief Ogden’s Proactive Policing Gained the Community’s Trust

By Bruce Gerson

Carnegie Mellon University’s police force has made many tangible improvements under Chief Tom Ogden, but it’s the intangibles, the accountability and public trust in his department, that mean the most to him.  

“Those are my two favorite words in policing. Hold the police accountable, and gain and maintain the public’s trust,” said Ogden, who is retiring in June after 14 successful years as CMU’s police chief. “I can say with great certainty that students, faculty, staff and leadership trust me and my department.”

Ogden and his team built positive relationships within the university community. They became part of organizing committees and event planning, and even collaborated with students and faculty on projects involving GPS tracking, mapping and safety apps. He hired top-notch candidates and gave them continuous training in sensitivity, mental health and de-escalation. He took a proactive approach.

“We try to anticipate and address issues before they become problems. Being proactive lends to gaining the public’s trust,” he said.

CMU President Farnam Jahanian called Ogden an outstanding leader whose professionalism, integrity and dedication set the tone for the entire police department.

“Under his leadership, his team has built strong and meaningful relationships across campus, and through those connections, earned the trust and respect of students, faculty, staff and community members alike,” Jahanian said. “We owe Chief Ogden a debt of gratitude for his 14 years of dedicated service to this community.” 

Under Ogden, CMU’s police force made major improvements in its infrastructure. Police cars were upgraded, and dashcams and bodycams are now being employed. A large truck that had been used for research is being converted into a mobile command center for large events, such as commencement. A network of security cameras has been installed to make campus safer.

“Under his leadership, his team ... earned the trust and respect of students, faculty, staff and community members alike.” — President Farnam Jahanian

Early in his tenure, CMU Police became the only university police department to be accredited by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association for complying with the association’s 132 best practices. Since then, the department has been re-accredited an unprecedented five times.

“That’s a big deal,” Ogden said of the re-accreditation. “Only 8% of police departments in the state are accredited.”

CMU’s Police Department recently underwent a departmental review, similar to the periodic advisory board reviews that are conducted of each academic unit. The consulting firm 21st Century Policing Solutions (21CP) reviewed the department’s operations, policies and practices in light of national best practices and policing principles.

“I thought the report was a valuable gauge for where we are,” Ogden said. “We did very well and received accolades for many of our policies and approaches. There were recommendations that were made, and I’ve already implemented 60% of them.”

Off campus, Ogden established excellent working relationships with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and City of Pittsburgh. Carnegie Mellon Police worked with the Secret Service, State Department and FBI to help secure four successful presidential visits to CMU.

“I never envisioned that,” he said of the POTUS visits. “The job has gone well beyond what I thought it would be.”

Ogden said he was grateful to all three CMU presidents — Jared Cohon, Subra Suresh and Farnam Jahanian — and vice presidents — Michael Murphy, Rodney McClendon and Daryl Weinert — he worked under, and to many colleagues for their partnership, collaboration and support.

“He guided the CMU Police Department to a level of capability and professionalism of which we should all be proud.” — Daryl Weinert

“Karen Faber, AVP for finance, has always given me good counsel,” Ogden said. “Melanie Lucht, Don Coffelt and that whole group have been terrific. David Baisley in Computing Services helped me with the technology we’ve added.”

Faber, who worked with Ogden on budgetary matters, said she admired him for leading his department with integrity and pride, and for his sense of humor. 

“You could always count on Tom to bring humor to every situation,” Faber said. “He is well respected internally and externally throughout the police community. He can be proud of what he built during his tenure at CMU.”

Weinert, vice president for operations, said Ogden had an “immense impact” on the CMU community.

“He guided the CMU Police Department to a level of capability and professionalism of which we should all be proud,” said Weinert, who is also CMU’s interim vice president for research and COVID-19 coordinator. “Personally, I am thankful for the support and collegiality Tom has shown me since I joined the CMU family in 2018. He leaves big shoes to fill!”

Former Vice President for Campus Affairs Michael Murphy, who was involved in Ogden’s hiring in 2008, called his impact “transformational,” and said Ogden’s integrity is what stood out most to him.

“Tom was always rock solid. He kept us safe and he did so with utmost respect and concern for each and every individual in this community,” said Murphy, distinguished service professor and executive director of the Center for Leadership Studies. “Tom deserves to be very proud of the operation he built and of the ways he protected us and allowed us to live in this vibrant community under his quiet and steady watch. It was an honor to serve with Chief Ogden, and it is a privilege to call him my friend.” 

“It was an honor to serve with Chief Ogden, and it is a privilege to call him my friend.” — Michael Murphy

CMU Police Sergeant Nello Bruno has been a member of the force since Ogden arrived 14 years ago. He praised the chief for building a well-trained, well-equipped, community-service-oriented police department.

“He provided his staff with opportunities to challenge themselves, improve their deficiencies, build on their strengths and succeed in their careers,” Bruno said. “Even days from retirement, he is working hard and implementing changes that will improve this department and the service it provides long after his departure.”

In retirement, Ogden is looking forward to resuming two-a-day workouts in his home gym. A power lifter, he once held the Pennsylvania record for the bench press, pushing up 435 pounds. But, he also has a little work to do.

“I painted my house when I first got here, and it needs painted again … inside and out,” he said.