UConn’s new Chief of Police Gerald Lewis, Jr. has been named as the nation’s Campus Safety Director of the Year, an award announced Thursday at the annual Campus Safety Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
Gerald Lewis Jr., who started this month as UConn’s police chief, was selected from scores of nominees and a 17-person pool of finalists by Campus Safety Magazine.
Lewis most recently worked as police chief and associate vice president of public safety at the University of Texas at San Antonio before joining UConn, which announced his hiring in April.
At UTSA, Lewis instituted the Rowdy Watch program, which recruits students to patrol the campus with a golf cart, conduct function checks of emergency phones, respond to door access requests, and provide escorts. He also started the Safety Walk program to identify various safety issues on campus, such as tripping hazards and lighting issues. This resulted in new LED lighting, trimmed trees and bushes, and more pleasing aesthetics.
For all new construction projects, he required the installation of video surveillance, access control, emergency phones, and adequate lighting.
“I am humbled and honored to receive this award,” says Lewis. “I want to say thank you to Campus Safety Magazine. This serves as one of the crowning achievements in my law enforcement career. I have been blessed to work with a number of amazing public safety colleagues and they deserve the credit for making this possible.”
Lewis now leads 100 sworn officers assigned to seven campuses across the state as the sixth chief in the nearly 50-year history of the UConn Police Department, which is an internationally accredited law enforcement agency with the same statutory authority as any municipal police department in Connecticut.
“I am excited to begin a new chapter at the University of Connecticut and appreciate the support of our president and administration,” says Lewis. “I am so proud to be a member of Husky Nation. I look forward to partnering with our students, faculty and staff to ensure the safety and protection of our university community.
“I also have to thank my supportive family which includes my wife Michelle, daughters Brielle and Arielle, as well as my son Aaron.”
Lewis had been at UTSA since 2016 prior to joining UConn, and had previously served 26 years in the New Jersey State Police and two years as chief of the East Carolina University Police Department.
Lewis earned high praise for his work as UTSA’s police chief and has been known at each of his jobs to become deeply involved with his community and to build meaningful and lasting relationships throughout campus and beyond.
At UConn, he’s already established strong professional relationships with Interim President Dr. Andrew Agwunobi; Hans Rhynhart, UConn’s associate vice president of public safety; and many others on and off UConn’s campuses.
In addition to his other duties adjusting to his new role, Lewis is working closely with others at UConn as the University is transitioning into pandemic recovery and campus re-entry procedures for the fall semester.
Lewis has said he will be highly accessible as chief, as has been his style at all of his positions; and that he and his family are excited to spend time in Downtown Storrs and throughout the region.
Lewis earned bachelors and master’s degrees from Fairleigh Dickinson University and is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute Executive Training Program.
He began his law enforcement career after graduating in 1987 as a member of the 109th New Jersey State Police Training Class, in which his peers recognized him as the outstanding recruit in his class and selected him to deliver the commencement speech.
During his 26 years as a state trooper, he received a Meritorious Service Award for his role in the pursuit and arrest of a carjacking suspect; and a Certificate of Commendation Award for saving a choking victim by performing the Heimlich maneuver.
He attained the rank of Major during his career and served as the agency’s communications director and later as its chief spokesperson, then as commanding officer of the Office of Community Affairs.
In the latter role, he partnered with the local NAACP chapter, other civic organizations, religious communities, and regional leaders to ensure that qualified minority candidates were recruited and afforded the opportunity to become New Jersey troopers. The partnership resulted in the two most diverse classes in State Police history.
Lewis is a member of numerous police executive organizations, including CALEA (Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies), IACLEA (International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators), NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives), IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) and PERF (Police Executive Research Forum).
In addition to his new honor as Campus Safety Magazine’s Campus Director of the Year for 2021, Lewis is also a recipient of the prestigious NAACP President’s Award and the University of Texas System’s 2018 Police Pacesetter Department of the Year award.