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Throughout its history, a community-oriented approach to policing has remained one of the UTSA Police Department’s (UTSAPD) key strengths. Utilizing a wide variety of community policing initiatives, educational workshops (self-defense courses, Drive Sober, LiveSafe) and outreach events (National Night Out, Coffee with a Cop, National Police Week), we actively contribute to building a collaborative and inclusive culture at the university. By engaging with the community, UTSAPD consistently fosters an environment where officers, faculty, staff and students feel a sense of belonging.

The story of UTSAPD is one of foresight, adaptability and a steadfast commitment to fostering a secure and thriving academic environment. Just prior to welcoming its first students, UTSA President Peter T. Flawn recognized the need to protect the campus community, and appointed Manuel C. Chavez as UTSA’s first chief of police, and later, worked with the University of Texas System to formally establish the UTSAPD.

This same forward-thinking mindset continues today as UTSA recently became the first UT System university to have two women lead a police department. Stephanie Schoenborn was named UTSA’s Chief of Police in 2022, and Angel Lemmonds was appointed Assistant Chief of Police in 2023.

On June 9, 1973, The University of Texas System formally established the UTSAPD. The department started with one chief, one sergeant, three patrol officers and 10 uniformed guards. UTSAPD began 24-hour police services on July 1, 1973. The first four police officers hired to protect the campus were Kenneth English, Douglas Mursch, Robert McLeod and Robert Bier.

The original police officer requirements stated that candidates must have 30 hours of college credit, be in good health and be at least 5 feet 7 inches tall. UTSA patrol officers attended a 10-week academy at the UT System Police Academy in Austin. Classes included criminal law, education code, firearms, defensive tactics, physical training, and Board of Regents policies and rules. Upon completion of the course, the patrol officers were commissioned by the secretary of the Board of Regents.

As the university grew in the 1970s, so did UTSAPD. The team went from patrolling campus by foot to implementing the first fleet of vehicles used for patrolling — three Cushman Trucksters, each equipped with emergency lights on top. 

In the late 1970s, UTSAPD drew much attention when one of their own, Sgt. Albert Rodriguez, made a 300-mile pilgrimage to San Juan de los Lagos in South Texas to give thanks for his daughter. She suffered from several birth defects and was not expected to have a long life. In 1981, his story was made into a TV movie, “30 Miles for Stephanie,” that starred Tony Orlando, Edward James Olmos, Peter Graves and Rosanna DeSoto.

The 1980s brought more responsibility for the UTSAPD, including overseeing parking lots and permits. With the country still reeling from the fuel shortages in the 1970s, we created “mini-car” parking lots that rewarded smaller cars using less fuel.

By early 1987, we began a shuttle service for students, where they could use any campus emergency phone to request a shuttle van.

As the university’s enrollment grew, the need for more officers became apparent. The department grew to include 23 police officers and four guards by 1993. By 1994, we implemented the UTSAPD Bicycle Patrol, which included four trained and certified police officers. The 1990s is also when a future police chief began her tenure with UTSAPD.

Making a difference in the San Antonio community became an unofficial anthem of sorts for the university. By the end of the 1990s, the university established the Downtown Campus to ease the reach of higher education for all San Antonians. The campus quickly grew, which meant it needed full-time police presence. In 1997, UTSAPD expanded its operations to ensure the safety of its students and employees and the security of our facilities.

At the start of the new millennium, UTSAPD continued to see significant growth within the department. Operations were moved to the Bosque Building, where we remain today. The department’s budget increased to $2.6 million and UTSAPD gained accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

With growth came more and newer training, and by 2008, UTSAPD officers were required to attend patrol rifle training and deploy them in all patrol vehicles.

UTSAPD’s presence grew with the university as UTSA made a push to become a Tier 1 research institution. After UTSA established its football team in 2011, UTSAPD formed a security detail for the head coach.

In 2016, UTSAPD hired Gerald Lewis, the first black police chief in UTSA history. During his tenure, the department introduced a variety of programs that expanded and improved campus safety, including the LiveSafe app, the Annual Safety Walk Program, the Rowdy Watch Student Patrol and Fair and Impartial Policing Training. Thanks to the efforts of Chief Lewis and the entire department, UTSA was named one of the nation’s safest college campuses and received the Excellence in Campus Advocacy and Action Award from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

As we entered the most recent decade, we faced a campus shutdown and reduction in force due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officers kept watch over all campuses as most employees worked from home. During this time, UTSAPD continued to find ways to serve the Roadrunner and San Antonio communities, including holding a “no contact” food drive and a virtual National Night Out.

UTSA and UT System made history as Stephanie Schoenborn was appointed Chief of Police. She is the first female chief in UTSAPD history, and her second in command, Assistant Chief of Police Angel Lemmonds, also happens to be the first female assistant chief in UTSAPD’s history. Together they are the first two women to ever lead a UT System police department.

UTSAPD celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2023 by inviting former employees, officers and civilians, who served our department over the last five decades. To commemorate the anniversary, we created a time capsule that includes many historically significant items from our 50-year history and will be opened on the 100th anniversary in 2073.