Q&A: Getting to know USC Department of Public Safety Chief Lauretta Hill

Lauretta Hill brings nearly three decades of law enforcement experience to USC. (Photo/Courtesy of Lauretta Hill)


Q&A: Getting to know USC Department of Public Safety Chief Lauretta Hill

The chief discusses the new ONE USC Safety Vision, her philosophy on public safety, and how her department will work with students, faculty, staff and the community.

April 10, 2023 Grayson Schmidt

Though she’s been on the job for a little over a month, USC’s new Department of Public Safety Chief Lauretta Hill already considers this university to be home. With nearly three decades in law enforcement under her belt, including the last six years as police chief at Dallas College — a community college system of nearly 75,000 students — the Texas native is looking forward to her and her family’s new life at USC.

She comes to Los Angeles as the university is rolling out its ONE USC Safety Vision. Emerging from the recommendations made by USC’s DPS Community Advisory Board ­— which led a broad, inclusive, yearlong effort that engaged hundreds of students, faculty, staff and neighbors — the ONE USC Safety Vision aims to foster a holistic sense of safety in the Trojan community by upholding the values of trust, inclusion, respect and belonging.

What drew you to this position?

Really, it was the people I met at USC when I interviewed and visited campus. I felt like I had known some of these people for a long time. It’s not that I knew them personally, but we had the same passion and drive and goals for DPS. That right there told me I was going to fit in.

What is your philosophy on public safety?

The goal is to provide a safe and secure, but welcoming environment for the students, faculty, staff and the community. Everybody needs that umbrella of safety and security. And it’s not just DPS’ responsibility; it’s a collective responsibility that we share in keeping everybody safe. Safety goes beyond just the call of DPS, and what I like about USC is that there’s this collective approach.

How will your previous experience translate into your new role as chief?

When I was hired at Dallas College, I had to consolidate seven police departments because there are seven campuses within the community college system and they all operate independently. Communication is key, and a lot of times it’s not what you’re doing but how you communicate that to people because you want that buy-in.

What is your biggest goal for the ONE USC Safety Vision?

My biggest goal is implementing the Community Advisory Board recommendations while providing transparency into what DPS does. We want you to see what we do every day and how our goals are to make a difference and make USC safe and secure.

Safety goes beyond just the call of DPS, and what I like about USC is that there’s this collective approach.

Lauretta Hill, DPS chief

One of the Community Advisory Board recommendations was to allow mental health professionals to respond to mental health calls. How will you continue to develop the Mental Health Assistance and Response Team (MHART) program?

Right now, the program — which allows licensed mental health clinicians to respond to mental health calls in partnership with DPS — is limited to certain hours of operation. My goal is to increase that, add the resources to provide services 24/7 and continue to expand the program by adding more people and more resources in partnership with our university’s mental health experts. One of the phenomenal things about this university is the resources that students have. I’ve talked to a lot of police and public safety chiefs at universities, and what USC already has is like nothing I’ve seen elsewhere.

What were you most excited for on your first day?

The most important part was to meet my team, my peers and the people who will help me implement the recommendations. I still have meetings scheduled with people all around the campuses to introduce myself and to connect with people. It was important for me to introduce myself to the community and for the community to be introduced to me.

What are some of the most important steps DPS can take to have a positive relationship with students?

Working for a university public safety department is the best opportunity to have community engagement and a community-based approach for addressing public safety issues. We have to meet people where they are and find those opportunities to engage when there’s nothing public safety-related going on — that’s how you build. We have to look at it as going to events or showing up not as DPS, but as just another part of USC.