Wiley Ends 24-year Career as UPD Chief, but Teaching and Legacy Go On 

In this 2016 photo, Frank Wiley stands between Deputy Chief Jennifer Fila, now chief of police at SUNY Oneonta, and Sergeant Steve Grassman outside University Police headquarters. (Photo by Paul Miller)

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 2, 2020) — Frank Wiley became chief of the University Policy Department (UPD) in the fall of 1996, and his goal was clear: establish a truly constructive relationship with the rest of the UAlbany community.

According to Todd Foreman, vice president for Finance and Administration, Wiley achieved what he’d aimed at. “Frank Wiley has embraced the most progressive community policing standards long before it was fashionable and led UPD’s efforts to achieve state accreditation — an important external validation of the department’s work. The principled approach to his work and his accessibility to students will be an enduring legacy that will continue.”

President Rodríguez said, “The University at Albany has been fortunate to have Frank Wiley lead our University Police Department the last 24 years. His expertise and progressive approach — combined with true caring for the University community — has made him a truly effective leader.”

A Scholarly Pursuit of Policing Recognized

As Wiley’s 24 years of UPD leadership ended on Sunday with his retirement, he looked back at two moments that vindicated his efforts and gave him utmost satisfaction.

One came when Laurie Robinson, co-chair of President Barack Obama’s 2015 Task Force on 21st Century Policy, which came up with 59 recommendations in light of the 2013 police shootings in Ferguson, Mo., spoke at UAlbany in April of 2017. For background on the campus, she looked over the policies of UPD. “She was blown away,” said Wiley.

“It was exciting to see that Chief Wiley and the UPD here at UAlbany have not only focused on [the taskforce’s] recommendations but have already implemented many of them,” she told her audience.

The other moment came at a University event featuring Distinguished Professor David Bayley, an international expert on policing who taught at UAlbany from 1985 to 2010 and was dean of the School of Criminal Justice from 1995-99. Wiley asked him to sign a copy of Bayley’s book Police for the Future. Bayley did, and inscribed it “to my model police chief.”

“Of all the nice things that have been said about my work over the past 24 years, those two stand out,” said Wiley, who noted a particularly poignancy in recalling the latter moment, in that Bayley passed away at 87 on May 10.

UAlbany Sought a Progressive Leader

A need for an improved community policing model was on the mind of President Karen Hitchcock when she appointed Wiley, who’d served 13 years at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in 1996. “The goal,” he said, “was to establish a progressive, constitutional based policing that took advantage of the best academic policing philosophies,”

This model of policing, he noted, remains antithetical to the orthodox model, which stresses officers not backing down from confrontations, and evaluations based more on numbers of arrests and tickets, instead of an emphasis on community engagement, limited use of force, the application of new technology, and reliance on independent oversight and cooperative efforts with advocacy groups.

“There was some pushback immediately, and to some degree, that kind of pushback is still there,” he said. “We were more effective over time when we were able to recruit new officers who had a particular affinity for the type of policing we were promoting. Plus, there were certain individuals who changed their philosophies toward modern policing.”

A Community Effort toward Community Policing

Wiley did not wish to single out particularly challenging events during his tenure, only to say “there were several, but ultimately the solution was always the same — reasonable actions by the police, openness and transparency. If we did that circumstances would not become untenable.”

Moments of true confrontation were few, “and then we were fortunate to have a very reasonable community, with excellent leadership, going all the way back to community leaders like John Murphy, Carl Martin, Carson Carr, and administrators like Jim Doellefeld, James Anderson, Chris Bouchard, Jim Van Voorst and now Todd Foreman and Mike Christakis. These people have been nothing but supportive of me.

“And positive community leadership extends today, through people such as Clarence McNeil, Maritza Martinez, Laurie Garafola and Ekow King. It’s not even possible to site them all.”

On Monday, Wiley handed over the reins of UPD to Paul Burlingame, whom he hired in 2002. Burlingame will serve on an interim basis for a year. “Paul will do an extraordinary job,” said Wiley. “When it comes to progressive policing, we share the same philosophies. He will maintain the fundamentals we’ve established over the years.”

Bringing His Experience to the Classroom

It will not be a departure from UAlbany for Wiley. “It is very special for an individual to conclude one passion and begin another — and for me that is to teach and work with young people.” He becomes a professor of practice with the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, instructing on policy during emergencies. He will continue to teach a Civil Rights course in Africana Studies.

Looking at the recent events in Minneapolis, Minn., with the killing of a black man by a city police officer during an arrest for possible forgery, invoked one of Wiley’s strongest convictions: “Done correctly, policing is among the noblest of professions. But done incorrectly, it can be a societal poison.” He said the “anti-progressive orthodoxy” model of policing still dominates in America “and rears its head in examples such as what we’ve just seen.”

The contrast can be seen on the campus today, as attested to by Foreman, who also praised the chief’s personal qualities. “I have really enjoyed working with Frank,” said Foreman. “His positive outlook has always lifted my spirits and his calm during crisis was always reassuring. In addition, he has taught me a lot about the history of policing and why community policing is so important today.”

Wiley saved his greatest appreciation for his UPD officers and staff. Several of his assistants have gone on to attain chief of police positions at other colleges and universities. “It’s not often that a police chief lasts 24 years,” he said, “and that only happens because I had outstanding people who worked with me.”

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