Spotlight: UTSA Chief of Police Gerald Lewis

Jaida Sloan, Assistant News Editor

UTSA Chief of Police and Vice President of Public Safety Gerald Lewis received national recognition recently as one of the 2021 Campus Safety Director of the Year finalists featured in Campus Safety Magazine. The recent spotlight on Chief Lewis recognized some of his most notable initiatives, including Rowdy Watch, the Safety Walk Program and expanding campus security technologies alongside our growing institution. 


Chief Lewis emphasized that a Chief is only as good as their team and accredited his department for the recent award. 


“This really means a great deal more to the department than me individually,” Chief Lewis asserted. “Because it shows that we are a very good police department and team. So the credit goes to the men and women of the department of public safety as opposed to me.”


Receiving awards is nothing new to Chief Lewis as he has been a recipient of the prestigious NAACP President’s Award, 2018 UT System Police Pacesetter Department of the Year award and a multitude of other awards. In addition, under Chief Lewis’s charge, UTSA was named one of the safest campuses in the nation by ASecureLife in 2019. UTSA was ranked the No. 2 safest university in Texas and the No. 30 safest in the nation. 

Chief Lewis is intricately involved with students within the roadrunner community, hosting community discussions as well as serving as the advisor to the Black Student Union (BSU).


BSU President at UTSA Priscilla Okolie spoke about how Chief Lewis has impacted UTSA as both the Chief and advisor to the BSU.


 “He is truly one of the best parts of our entire campus,” said Priscilla Okolie. “When the BSU was having trouble finding an advisor he really stepped-up and took the position. He has only been the advisor for the BSU for about a year but has already done so much for our entire community. He has enhanced the BSU as a whole in ways I didn’t even know were possible, and he has done the same thing to the UTSA police Department.”


Notably, Chief Lewis is the only African American Chief of Police in the entire UT-System


“I think it’s important to have minority representation within our community leadership who understands various cultural experiences especially when it comes to police protection and the people they’re supposed to serve,” said Prisicilla Okolie.


He believes his experience as a person of color has deeply influenced his success in leading the Department of Public Safety and creating a community of trust at UTSA.


“I think my being a person of color has helped me because some of the things that marginalized groups face I have faced personally,” said Chief Lewis.


 Chief Lewis attested to his experiences dealing with racism. 


“Even now as a 50 year old man, I still get the people who when they see me coming they lock their doors or hold their purse a little tighter,” Chief Lewis chuckled. “Sometimes I am tempted to say ‘Hey look I’m the chief of police I’m going to rob you.’ and it’s sad that kind of stuff is still going on.”


Moreover, Chief Lewis was able to create a Public Safety Community Support Center centrally located in the H-E-B Student Union to increase accessibility for students, which hosts the Community Affairs and the Behavioral Intervention Team. Community Affairs Sergeant Veronica Waelbroeck commended Chief Lewis’s dedication to the UTSA community.


“Chief Lewis has been a huge advocate in bridging the gap between law enforcement and our community,” said Sergeant Walebrock with great admiration.


Chief Lewis says he would support further measures to fill the gaps between law enforcement and our community with police funding reallocated towards a mental health partnership. 


“I would have no problem with taking some of the money we use for the police department and reallocating that to counseling.” Chief Lewis said. “Not only reallocating funds but also creating a partnership where when police respond to an incident so does a mental health provider. I think that would be a great idea.”


Chief Lewis is not afraid to have tough conversations and take action in creating better policing practices.


“We were the first UT-system police department to implement fair and impartial policing training which deals with implicit and explicit biased enlight of everything going on as of recently. I think as a police officer you really have to know who you are.”


After the George Floyd video, Chief Lewis would address both his officers and the UTSA community at large. 


“When I originally watched the George Floyd video I waited for one of the other officers to step in and stop it.” Chief Lewis said. “I challenged my officers to take action if they saw someone being mistreated, using excessive force. I asked them all, ‘Would you be brave enough to stop it?’”


He also engaged in a conversation with the UTSA football team about the problems in policing and the George Floyd case. Chief told the football team about the conversation he had with his officers. Ultimately, the football team was so deeply impacted by Chief Lewis’ words that they created shirts reading, “Would you be brave enough to stop it?” The team wore them before every game.


“That (the pre-game shirts) was born out of conversation between me, my police department, and the football team.” Chief Lewis said. “It was probably the proudest moment I’ve ever had as a law enforcement officer.”