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Chief of police finalist Ruben Quesada emphasizes listening to the community

A photo of Ruben Quesada.
Courtesy of Next Door

By Stefano Hernandez

An open forum for the University Police Chief Search was held for finalist Ruben Quesada Nov. 15.

Quesada began by giving a brief introduction about his life and what led him to police work.

Originally from Phoenix, AZ, Quesada started his career working as a police officer in 1995 and retired as a police commander after 25 years and moved to the East Coast to be closer to his family.

“My dream was to always work for a campus,” he said, “because I like to call myself a ‘prac-ademic.’”

As a practitioner of policing but also an academic after finishing his doctorate in 2017, Quesada developed the term “prac-ademic” to create a synergy between his two passions.

“I got into policing inadvertently,” he said. “At 16 years of age, I was arrested by the Phoenix Police Department for possession of marijuana.”

Quesada then described his experience with juvenile court. He was assigned 16 hours of community service, which he served at a church in Phoenix.

“I was running with the wrong crowd. I was hanging out with other kids I shouldn’t be hanging out with,” he said. “That’s when I met three police officers... who are still very much my friends today.”

Quesada explained how he befriended these three others he said taught him the difference between right and wrong. He said they mentored him in the practice of policing.

He added after his sentencing, his mother became interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement – a goal she eventually achieved.

Quesada said he also dreamed of becoming a police officer and pursued this goal after attending Northern Arizona University.

Despite not needing a degree to become a police officer, Quesada wanted to prove to himself and others that he could change.

Kate Caffrey, a professor in communication, media, and performance and president of the faculty union asked Quesada what he thought the difference was between hate speech and free speech.

Quesada answered he would consider the rights of the individual.

“We all have civil rights,” he said. “Yes, they should be allowed to speak freely and speak their mind, and I don’t have to agree with [what they say], but I have to respect an individual’s rights.”

Margaret Carroll, dean of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, asked how Quesada would help students and the community feel safe during an ongoing investigation.

Quesada replied, “Anytime you had something that occurred in your area, like my district, we had to respond.”

He explained what work consists of when reporting on ongoing investigations.

He added that what is most important is making sure every members of the community is heard and can ask questions.

“How I would handle that is to meet with all the groups,” he said.

Quesado said he has done this throughout his career, adding the police have to answer “the tough questions and you have to listen and realize the perception of others is their reality.”

He emphasized that as a police officer, it is important to be honest and open to others.

A student asked how Quesada would make students of color feel safe, referencing the recent acts of vandalism committed by white supremacy-related groups.

Quesada replied, “It’s about all of us. It’s part of what can we do and asking why our students of color are not feeling safe.”

Quesada explained he would engage with students directly and ask what the police department can do to help make them feel safe.

He said that because the University is a state institution, a lack of funding makes it difficult to have the resources available to adhere to all student demands.

“I don’t have all the answers,” he said. “But collaboratively, we can find a solution.”


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