Published: May 20, 2024

The CU Boulder Police Department, as it’s known today, was founded in September 1949 by then-CU President Robert Stearns. Initially the department consisted of a chief, three patrol officers and a daytime traffic officer. 

Chief Doreen Jokerst and Deputy Chief Mark Heyart 75th anniversary police chief badge CUPD historical memorabilia displayed at retiree luncheon CUPD retirees and current employees at retiree luncheon CUPD Officer Joe Armstrong with a late 1960s police car in front of the Armory Present-day CUPD vehicles

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The department has grown significantly in size and stature, rising to the challenges of policing in an ever-complex world. Today, CUPD is a full-service, nationally accredited police agency providing community-based public safety services to a diverse community of 36,000 affiliates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long. 

Last year, the department’s 43 commissioned officers responded to approximately 20,000 calls for service. CUPD has a female chief, boasts six female officers (14% of its ranks, which is higher than the national average) and is part of the 30x30 initiative, pledging to increase police recruit classes to 30% female by 2030. 

CUPD’s service goes beyond the badge. The department has 30 professional staff members, including a crime data analyst, an embedded victim advocate and mental health clinician

“Through the years, our department has protected the campus, provided safety information and guidance through some very difficult times, including protests over the conflict in Vietnam and civil unrest throughout the nation and right here in Boulder,” said Kara Syvanen, a CUPD residential service officer who is documenting the department’s history. 

Coincidentally, the 75th anniversary of police services at CU Boulder coincided with Syvanen’s final project for her master’s in library and information science. She spent a significant number of hours in Norlin Library, digging through the special collections archive for mementos and other historical artifacts she’ll feature in the CUPD Legacy Project

The project includes a collection of photos, uniforms, documents and other memorabilia saved by current employees and retirees, some of whom met at the CUPD training center this spring to swap stories and reminisce about their years serving the campus community. 

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“The stories I’ve heard are sometimes thrilling, sometimes heartwarming, sometimes amusing or shocking,” said Syvanen. “I believe these stories have helped to lay the foundation for the department’s work today,” she added.

CUPD’s unofficial resident historian, Deputy Chief Mark Heyart, who’s been with the department since 1998, recognizes the significance of this milestone. “CUPD has been, and continues to be, an integral part of something much bigger than ourselves. We are creating a legacy of public safety at the state’s flagship university,” he said. 

To recognize the resiliency, adaptability and growth mindset of the department, CUPD officers will wear a commemorative 75th anniversary badge for the remainder of the year. 

In March, CUPD became part of CU Boulder’s new Division of Public Safety

The division shares and enhances CUPD’s commitment to sustaining and supporting the campus community through transparency, focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion and inviting community input.

“It’s exciting to see where we’ve been, how we continue to engage our community members in safety education and even casual moments like snowball fights and midnight pancake breakfasts,” Syvanen said. “I’m looking forward to what the future brings.”