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Public Safety Chief Mark Fischer to retire at the end of July

April 23, 2021

Fischer brought the public safety department to a ‘higher level of professionalism, collaboration, training, and transparency’ during his tenure.

Mark Fischer in black suit and tie with white collared shirt.

Mark Fischer (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Mark Fischer, who has led the University of Rochester’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) for the past seven years, has announced his retirement effective at the end of July. Fischer directs a 177-member public safety unit that serves a community of more than 36,000 students, faculty, and staff. He has served as DPS director and chief since 2013, when he was promoted from deputy director.

DPS Deputy Chief Gerald Pickering will become interim chief effective August 1. A national search will be initiated in spring 2022 for a new DPS leader with a search committee comprising student, faculty, and staff participants from across the institution.

“Mark has brought the department to a higher level of professionalism, collaboration, training, and transparency since his arrival,” says Holly Crawford, senior vice president for administration and finance, CFO, and treasurer. “He has worked hard to increase the diversity of the department and has listened to students, faculty, and staff about their concerns and, importantly, acted upon their concerns. He will be leaving the department much stronger than it was when he arrived.”

Upon becoming DPS director in 2013, Fischer began transitioning DPS from a university security agency to a full-service public safety department to better meet the emerging safety needs of Rochester’s academic campuses and medical center. As part of this, several classes of sworn peace officers were introduced into the department for the first time. For a public safety officer to become a sworn peace officer, certification and additional extensive training is required, in topics including diversity and disability awareness, de-escalation techniques, and dealing with persons in crisis. The addition of sworn peace officers has further enhanced incident prevention and response capabilities in all areas that DPS covers, including the River Campus, Eastman Campus, the Medical Center, South Campus, and the Memorial Art Gallery.

In 2020, DPS earned full accreditation from the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators—the leading authority for campus public safety—for the first time. Under Fischer’s leadership, DPS demonstrated to outside, impartial experts its compliance with national standards that denote current best practices in the profession. Fewer than 100 agencies worldwide have earned this distinctive recognition.

Promoting DPS as both a partner and a part of the University community

Since becoming chief of the department, Fischer has worked to build strong relationships across the University to create programs and practices that promote safety and a sense of security for University community members.

He started the Adopt-a-Hall program in 2014, which assigns a public safety officer to one or more residence halls for the year so that students and officers can better know each other, and students know whom to approach with any safety concerns or questions. Fischer also launched the Cookies with the Chief events, offering students the chance to sit down and discuss safety issues of importance to them. In 2019, and in partnership with the Students’ Association, he also implemented the first DPS Student Advisory Board, which meets regularly with student representatives to strategize ways to enhance communication between students and DPS staff, and to brainstorm solutions to emerging student concerns. In addition, Fischer created several other advisory committees and groups to hear community feedback on the services DPS provides.

“I am honored to have served this University and to have worked with an incredibly talented group of public safety officers and staff,” says Fischer. “DPS officers are trained to treat every individual with respect, dignity, and the proper care in all of the situations they encounter each day. Establishing and maintaining these positive relationships with students, faculty, staff, patients, and visitors has been of the utmost importance as we all work together to provide for the safety of our community.”

Interim Chief Jerry Pickering

Since January 2015, Pickering has served as deputy director and chief of DPS. Prior to joining the University, he was the chief of police for the Town of Webster for 14 years. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and is an experienced public safety professional with more than 20 years of executive leadership and management in the public and private sectors.

Crawford says, “I look forward to working with Jerry and the rest of the DPS team on continuing to build on the relationships and collaborative spirit that Mark has promoted.”

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