Q&A: Assistant Chief Brent Tourangeau
In December, UT Dallas Police Chief Larry Zacharias announced the hiring of Brent Tourangeau as Assistant Chief of Police. Chief Tourangeau started his new job at UTD on February 17. In April, the Staff Council Communications Committee sat down with him for a quick Question & Answer session.
Where were you working before UT Dallas?
I worked for the Richardson Police Department for 28 years. When I retired I was the Captain over the Patrol Division. And that has approximately 100 people in it. That division included budget, payroll, vehicles, employee complaints, citizen complaints, officer selection, and many other things people might not immediately think of.
What are you most proud of in your time with Richardson?
I think that’s a pretty easy question actually. I am very proud of my relationship with the citizens of Richardson. The citizens have high expectations for the city employees of every department. They expect you to be professional and ethical. We always treated citizens with respect and they respected us. I was always impressed by the quality of the citizen volunteers who worked with the police department. These people, many of them retirees, were invested in their community enough to give their time back to the community. We learned a lot from them.
What brought you to UT Dallas?
When I started at Richardson PD, I had the goal of working 25 years and earning my retirement. When I made that, I started considering doing something a little different. There were opportunities for leadership positions within other police departments. But I started asking myself why leave Richardson and start over somewhere else. Then, I heard that the Assistant Chief position at UT Dallas was going to be posted. Once it was posted, I began talking to the UTD lieutenants about the campus and the police department here. I had also had the opportunity to hear Dr. David Daniel speak in public. It sounded like he wanted to take the university to the same places our city manager wanted to take the City of Richardson. I like strong leaders with a vision for the future like that. So, I thought I could really help out at UT Dallas and I would like to be involved. After a long, interesting, and nerve-racking selection process, I was happy to get the offer.
What are your first impressions of UTD and the UTD Police Department?
Everything I thought about UTD was just enhanced. Everyone here is passionate; they care about what they do. I really like that. I also noticed the students care about their education. Everywhere I go, I see a student sitting somewhere, in a nook or cranny, studying. They are invested in their education. Plus, the students, staff, and faculty remind me of what I saw in Richardson. They see the police as part of the community. They will talk to you, shake your hand, wave and say hi when you walk by. I think that means the UTD police department has done a good job of being engaged with the community.
My first impression of the UTD Police Department was similar. I could see they were professional, caring, and open to honest conversations. I was surprised a little at how open the officers and civilian staff were to discuss things with me, even though they didn't really know me yet. They cared so much about their job that they wanted to discuss problems and work to find solutions. It’s easy just to come up with the problem; but, it’s another to be willing to be part of the solution.
How would you describe your role as Assistant Chief within a department that has had no Assistant Chief?
First, it’s a learning process. Chief Zacharias told me he didn't hire an assistant chief when he first started because it was the best way to immerse himself in the organization and the university community. As the university has grown and the department has grown, he decided that the lieutenants were taking on more administrative duties than they should. If the lieutenants are forced to do more and more administrative work then they are pulled away from their primary duties. I think part of my role is to allow people to do their jobs and be good at what they are good at.
What are your top priorities to address in your first year?
I need to get to know the community within the police department as quickly as I can. I want to gain a level of trust and integrity with the rest of the police department. I also really want to get to know the university, the departments, and the people. What does the university think is important? What does the university want out of its police department? What do the police employees here want out of their police department?
How is the role and function of a university police department different than a city?
In reality, most of the things I deal with on a daily basis inside the organization are almost the same as they were at Richardson – just not as many. We respond just like Richardson does. We have calls for service, we help victims, get them any aid they need, and we try to prevent crimes. The biggest difference is dealing with security issues while on patrol. In Richardson, each business deals with its own security internally. They lock their own doors and use their own cameras. The Richardson Police Department doesn't normally escort people from a dark parking lot to the library. We do and we should. It’s something new for me to get my mind around. Another big difference is the familiarity that comes from interacting with the same people multiple times. It’s neat that we have this real feeling of community from seeing each other on a regular basis. It feels a bit like a neighborhood and a homeowner’s association. Having coffee in the Dining Hall or the Pub does feel kind of like a small town coffee shop or barber shop where everyone knows you or remembers the last time you came in.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself that people at UTD might not know?
I don’t know that I’m all that interesting myself. But, I was a lumberjack at one time. My dad, uncles, and cousins all worked in the woods in Vermont. We chopped firewood and cleared power lines for power companies. That might be as interesting as I get.
Is there anything else you would like to say to our staff readers?
I have a lot to learn and I’m willing to learn. If people have anything they want the police department to know about or things they would like to see our department do, I would like the community to let us know. We don’t know unless you tell us. I think our staff, faculty, and students are one of the best resources that any police department could have. They have accomplished a lot and I’d like them to help us learn.
The UT Dallas Police Department can be contacted on the web at www.utdallas.edu/police or by phone at 972-883-2222.