University of Colorado Boulder Police Chief Melissa Zak, who for the past three years has helped lead the campus through crises and high-profile events such as floods, a presidential debate and demonstrations, will assume a new role Jan. 1 as the university’s assistant vice chancellor of safety.
Zak will oversee the planning, organization and coordination of all campus safety functions, including the police and environmental health and safety departments, and will manage the campus’s response to crises and emergencies. She will report directly to David Kang, vice chancellor for infrastructure and safety, and will continue to serve as police chief until a search yields her successor.
“Melissa has a proven track record of working collaboratively and effectively with all of the university’s stakeholders,” Kang said. “She is well positioned to develop and lead a culture of safety across our campus, and I am grateful to have someone of her caliber and with her experience on my team.”
Among the major initiatives Zak will undertake in her new role is a more focused shift toward operations that prevent issues from occurring in the first place, rather than mitigating them as they arise, Kang said.
“We have an added duty to be extra vigilant when it comes to the safety and security of the students that we have been entrusted to educate and prepare for the future,” Kang added. “Complacency and status quo is not good enough when it comes to safety, and we need to work together to create a culture of responsibility, ownership, innovation and unending vigilance when it comes to all aspects of safety across the university.”
As police chief, Zak has focused on safety and collaboration, and said there is a correlation between safety and success for students, faculty and staff, despite the challenges faced by any university.
“CU Boulder must continue to maintain and promote a culture of safety in classrooms, labs, residence halls, facilities, pathways and roads,” she said. “However, I realize that creating a safety culture and environment looks different for many of us on campus. I look forward to listening to all of our stakeholders and working together to identify solutions to promote our university’s three main goals of shaping tomorrow’s leaders, being the top university for innovation and impacting humanity.”
Before arriving in Boulder in 2013 as deputy police chief, Zak was a 21-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. She holds a master’s degree in conflict negotiation from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and Senior Management Institute for Police.
As an LAPD captain, Zak oversaw gang and detective operations, community relations, critical incident and special events, and administrative investigations for an area covering the University of Southern California and more than 400 LAPD employees. Her LAPD experience includes managing safety at USC football games, the Academy Awards and the LA Marathon.
As CU Boulder’s campus police chief, she has overseen a full-service agency with 46 commissioned police officers who provide around-the-clock patrol and dispatch communications; criminal case investigations; crime prevention programs; emergency and disaster preparedness planning; hostile threat assessment and response; and event security oversight for the university community.
In addition, Zak has been instrumental in building productive, effective interjurisdictional relationships with city of Boulder and Boulder County law-enforcement agencies.