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UTSW Police veteran Lewis named Chief

By Ron Durham

New police chief, Marcus Lewis
Marcus Lewis

When he was hired as a police cadet at UT Southwestern Medical Center in 1997, Marcus Lewis had no idea that less than 20 years later he would be Chief of Police.

“I don’t think I ever came into this job thinking someday I’ll be the chief,” Chief Lewis said. “That was never my intent. I’ve always just seen opportunities to be able to help more, to contribute and to add value. So that has been my intent throughout my career to the various positions I’ve had.”

Lewis, 45, was recently promoted to Chief, succeeding Thomas Bickers Jr., who retired in late 2016. After serving as a corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and assistant chief, Chief Lewis now finds himself at the helm of a 150-person Department that ensures the safety of patients, employees, and neighbors of the UT Southwestern campus community.

“This institution provided me opportunities I probably would not have gotten elsewhere,” Chief Lewis said.

Arnim Dontes, Executive Vice President for Business Affairs, said the Department remains in good hands moving forward. “Chief Lewis has consistently demonstrated his community-mindedness and has been highly engaged with all those who work and learn on our campus,” Mr. Dontes said in the November campus announcement. “Having had the opportunity to work closely with him while in his interim position, I know that he will be a valuable partner and trusted team member, helping to ensure our safety and the security at UT Southwestern.”

The campus environment presents a unique challenge for its Police Department – a sprawling medical center located in the middle of a busy Dallas neighborhood. As a result, UT Southwestern officers are trained differently and operate differently than a typical municipal police force.

“Because of the prestige and purpose of the institution, we are highly people-centered,” Lewis said. “We have to be more protective in nature and less enforcement driven. Building and maintaining the public trust is absolutely paramount to our success.

“Officers must have a different temperament and focus to work here. UT Southwestern Police is the perfect environment for those officers who are people-centered and servant oriented.”

Interacting and building trust with the areas surrounding the UT Southwestern campus – like Arlington Park and the Forest Park residential community – also is a top priority for Chief Lewis and his staff.

“I really want to position the Department to be well integrated into the campus and the local community,” Chief Lewis said. “So obviously that means UT Southwestern as a whole, but also to our neighbors. It’s not so much about providing police services to those areas, but having great community relationships with them because what happens here affects what happens there, and what happens there affects what happens here.

“We can’t have bad things happen in the surrounding area without it causing concern to the UT Southwestern community. And if something happens on campus that spills over into the surrounding neighborhoods, we need the community’s trust and cooperation as well. So it’s really important that we have a holistic trust with both the internal and the external community. Building and maintain that trust is one of our major initiatives.”

Because of the unique requirements of the job, Lewis says his most successful officers typically start their police careers at UT Southwestern.

“The officers that we groom and grow internally have longer tenures and higher career satisfaction,” Lewis said.

Moving forward, Chief Lewis said he wants to continue focusing on internal leadership development within the UT Southwestern Police Department.

“We’ve made great strides,” he said. “But we want to have a common leadership culture that’s well defined universally applied in the Police Department. We want to invest in every employee as being either a current leader, an exemplary follower, or a future leader.”

Chief Lewis, who attended UT Arlington and who currently serves as an adjunct Professor in the Criminology Department there, said he has always felt a special connection to the campus community and believes it is a perfect fit for him.

“Four generations of my family received their health care here,” he said. “UT Southwestern doctors have saved the life of my mother. They’re in the process of saving the life of my father-in-law. I met my wife here; she worked here and my mother-in-law worked here. My daughter aspires to go to medical school here when she’s old enough. I’m ecstatic doing this. I have no desire to go anywhere else.”