Spelman Johnson Seeks Chief of Police for Harvard University Police Department

September 22, 2020 – Executive recruitment firm Spelman Johnson has been chosen by Harvard University to lead its search for a new chief of police for the Harvard University Police Department. Francis D. Riley, the current chief, recently announced that he is retiring at the end of the year. Heading the assignment is search associate Heather J. Larabee.

A committee representing leaders from across the Harvard community has been convened to conduct the search, and it will actively engage with individuals from across the university’s schools and units.

“The next police chief for Harvard needs to be someone who is strongly committed to community policing,” search committee member Herman B. Leonard, told the Harvard Gazette. “This means having a deep and positive relationship between all members of the community and the police department that is helping to provide safety and security for them. And having a relationship like that requires the police force — and, especially, the chief — to understand both the ordinary and the unique features of our community.”

According to Mr. Leonard, the next chief will need to understand, and then enact, innovative ways to protect Harvard’s distinctive concerns, which begin with the safety, well-being, and interests of its more than 40,000 diverse students, faculty, staff and academic personnel, and extend into such areas as understanding the value of, and protecting, high-value intellectual property.

“In today’s climate of rethinking the balance of responsibilities between police and other agencies — mental health services providers, for example — Harvard may need to do some of its own reexamination of roles and responsibilities, so our next chief also needs to be able to help us reimagine, recalibrate and redesign what a police force on a modern university campus should be,” Mr. Leonard said.

The Role

The chief of police oversees the managerial and financial operations of the Harvard University Police Department. The chief also provides oversight to Harvard’s security division, outsourced under an external contract. The selected candidate will be responsible for protecting the university community, its property, and ensuring compliance with state, local and federal law in a manner consistent with the values and expectations of the university.

The chief will oversee the recruitment, training and supervision of sworn officers, administrative personnel and support staff. The individual will be expected to incorporate state of the art philosophies, plans and programs to attract and retain a diverse workforce. The successful chief will lead the effort to build an atmosphere dedicated to inclusive excellence, mutual respect, understanding and shared communication among all Harvard affiliates, within the department itself, and with visitors and members of the host communities of Cambridge and Boston.


The successful candidate must have an undergraduate degree in criminal justice or related field along with 12 years of progressive policing experience, including a minimum of seven years of managerial (supervisory level or at a lieutenant or above) experience, or the equivalent combination of education and experience. Spelman Johnson said that “prior law enforcement experience within a higher education environment and a deep understanding of the special dimensions of student life and a campus community are strongly preferred as is a comfort with technology.”

The search firm also said that the next chief must have a demonstrated ability to engage with a broad and diverse range of stakeholders within the university and surrounding communities, a strong background in community-centered law enforcement, proven experience operating in a multi-faceted and diverse organizational structure, experience effectively managing crisis situations, and a record of positive community engagement and public relations.

Founded in 1636, Harvard University has 12 degree-granting schools in addition to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The university enrolls over 20,000 degree-seeking candidates, including undergraduate, graduate and professional students, and has more than 360,000 alumni around the world.

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The Harvard University Police Department is a full-service police department comprising a patrol division, criminal investigation division and dignitary protection unit. The department is responsible for the safety and security of more than 19,000 students, 14,000 faculty and staff members, and 700 buildings in an open and accessible environment.

Committed to Diversity

Spelman Johnson is based in Easthampton, MA. Established in 1991, the search firm has helped hundreds of academic institutions identify professionals, pairing leaders with positions across all facets of colleges and universities.

Ms. Larabee most recently served as assistant dean of students and director of campus activities in the division of student affairs at the University of Southern California. Prior to that, she served as assistant director for cultural arts and activities. She previously worked at Francis Marion University, where she served as director of student life in the division of student affairs. She also held the position of program coordinator in the division of student affairs at the University of Tennessee.

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Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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