By Noah Bulthuis
A few years back, Paul Cooper and his wife were remodeling their home in Claremont, California, when Cooper reconnected with someone from his past.
The couple had a contractor over inspecting drywall, when the man asked Cooper, “You don’t remember me, do you?”
Worried, Cooper said he didn’t, and the man responded, “You arrested me for drunk driving, and I fought with you and your partner.”
Suddenly, the memory came back to Cooper, and he remembered being pretty scraped up from the ordeal. After the arrest, the man said, he had turned his life around and never touched a drink again. He said he had always hoped to run into Cooper so that he could tell him about how that event impacted him. Needless to say, Cooper hired the man for the drywall.
Starting three weeks ago, Cooper was hired as UCI’s new Assistant Chief of Police. With over 30 years of experience working in the Claremont Police Department, the last ten of those years as chief, he was more than qualified for the job.
Cooper retired from Claremont PD in November 2016 to allow the department to have some fresh blood in the office, and also to allow a colleague the opportunity to promote. Because of his decision, the City of Claremont now has its first female chief. After spending some time in retirement, however, Cooper missed doing police work, and came across the UCI position.
Joining our campus as Assistant Chief, Cooper will facilitate day-to-day operations for the chief and assist in supervising emergency management, patrol, operations, detective investigations, and the medical center.
When asked how he feels about being a part of the UCI community so far, Cooper responded, “It’s been great. The staff at the police department and other faculty have been very welcoming. It’s amazing to see how many people enjoy working here.”
Cooper mentioned that in his first week, while walking through part of the campus by Aldrich Hall, he saw some student groups outside. Asking them how they felt about the campus police department, he was surprised by how supportive they were.
“Sometimes police and people in college don’t have that great of a relationship, but the people I talked to spoke highly of the police,” he said.
While he was encouraged by the responses from students, Cooper recognizes the size of the campus and realizes that there are many opinions out there.
On the topic of student protests on campus, Cooper explained, “Everyone should have the opportunity to exercise their free speech rights. The police get involved when things become criminal, but our goal is to keep people safe.”
Other challenges Cooper anticipates revolve around budget.
“Just like local, county and state levels, a difficult thing is trying to provide a high quality of service with the constraint of budget fiscal matters.”
Cooper hopes to grow the staff of campus safety, as he has noticed staffing seems a bit flat in comparison to other UC campuses.
Working for a university police department will be a new experience for the new Assistant Chief, but Cooper is excited for the opportunity. He most looks forward to meeting new people, and providing the best possible service to the UCI community.