WMPD Police Chief elected president of Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators

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COURTESY PHOTO / DEBORAH CHEESEBRO

The Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators recently elected the College of William and Mary’s Chief of Police and Associate Vice President for Public Safety Deborah Cheesebro as president.

Previously, Cheesebro acted as an at-large board member for VACLEA, but now she will serve in both her current role at the College and her new role as president of VACLEA. 

VACLEA, an affiliated organization of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and Foundation, serves as the state’s leading authority on police and public safety at colleges and universities in Virginia.

The organization performs a multitude of roles including professional training and legislative advocacy to maintain security and safety on college campuses.

“Being elected as President of this important Association is an honor,” Cheesebro said in an email. “The men and women serving as college and university police and security professionals across the Commonwealth are dedicated to making a difference at their respective campuses. I hope to raise awareness of their contributions and facilitate whatever tools they still need for them to be most effective.”  

“Being elected as President of this important Association is an honor,” Cheesebro said in an email. “The men and women serving as college and university police and security professionals across the Commonwealth are dedicated to making a difference at their respective campuses. I hope to raise awareness of their contributions and facilitate whatever tools they still need for them to be most effective.” 

As president, Cheesebro will lead a board of seven elected officers who will work with the association to identify the training gaps, campus safety-measure practices and legislation initiatives for the safety and security needs of higher education. 

“College and university police and public safety agencies have some very unique challenges and distinct tools that separate us from our municipal colleagues,” Cheesebro said. “This is based on our overall mission, the nature of our population and property, legislative mandates specific to higher education, and campus alternatives to making arrests. Being President of VACLEA allows me to advocate for campus specific police and public safety needs on a statewide basis.”

In August 2014, Cheesebro was named the first female police chief of WMPD after previously serving as the deputy director for the department of police and public safety at the University of Michigan and the senior director of police at the University of North Carolina in Winston-Salem, N.C. Cheesebro succeeded Donald Challis, thereby breaking the College’s 321-year history of all male police chiefs.

Prior to her experience in the police force, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminal justice and a doctorate in organizational behavior. 

“Deb is ideally suited to provide state-wide leadership in this role and will represent both the law enforcement profession and the university with distinction,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 in a press release. 

“Deb is ideally suited to provide state-wide leadership in this role and will represent both the law enforcement profession and the university with distinction,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 in a press release. 

The president of VACLEA holds a one-year term, during which Cheesebro hopes to promote professionalism across all campus police and improve the overall operation of the WMPD. 

“My role as President of VACLEA is a distinct advantage to William & Mary,” Cheesebro said. “I will be in the forefront as new public safety issues and practices develop, advanced training becomes available to campus agencies, other agencies share their experiences managing cases or incidents, new security technologies are revealed, and legislative initiatives are implemented. I will hear new ideas and assessments of new programs early in the overall implementation or evaluation process.”

Though Cheesebro will have added responsibilities in congruent to her role as WMPD police chief, she believes her new position will help update and improve the WMPD services to the Williamsburg community. 

In light of these changes, Cheesebro has stated that the WMPD will still continue to conduct their safety mission of police and public safety mission wholeheartedly. 

“WMPD will continue to provide all police, public safety, emergency communications, and emergency management services in a manner that not only keeps people safe, but also ensures that people feel safe in their environment,” Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration Sam Jones said in an email. “They will strive to enhance the W&M student experience; facilitate faculty and staff efforts; and partner with all W&M community members to solve problems, prevent crime, foster personal safety, protect property, maintain order for the normal operation of the College, and effectively address criminal activity.”

Cheesbro’s new position for VACLEA will be effective immediately as of February 2020. In addition, the College will host VACLEA’s Summer 2021 Conference.

“Most importantly for our W&M community, I can assess our operation and responses against the industry practices I observe,” Cheesebro said. “In this way, I can reinforce our own best practices, make change where it would serve the community better and continually improve the overall operation of WMPD to keep people safe and secure.”