You are here

Department History

The University of Colorado Boulder Police Department was founded in September 1949 by CU President Robert Stearns. The department was established after two campus murders occurred during the preceding nine months. Theresa Foster was killed in the winter of 1948, and in June 1949 Roy Spore was beaten and thrown into Boulder Creek, where he drowned. Spore had apparently trying to protect his girlfriend from a "sex fiend" who appeared out of the dark north of Sewall Hall. Although a former CU engineering student confessed to the murder at a Los Angles veteran’s hospital in 1954, his confession was discounted by police and the murder remains unsolved.

During its early years, the department consisted of the new chief, Richard Stratton, three patrolmen, and a daytime traffic officer. The officers were equipped with a 1949 Ford "prowl car" complete with radio. Officers were originally commissioned by both the city and the county, with each new hire approved by the Boulder police chief and the sheriff.

The "crime wave" of 1949 gave way to the relatively calm period of the fifties and early sixties. CU's next major crime occurred in 1966. Elaura Jean Jaquette, a botany student, was raped and murdered in Macky Auditorium. Joseph Morse, the janitor, was subsequently arrested and convicted for the crime. The investigation was run by Boulder PD and included detectives from Denver PD. At the time UCPD had no investigations unit. For comparative purposes, the Boulder PD force of that period was smaller than our department is today.

The later sixties and early seventies also brought a period of campus unrest, much of it related to the war in Vietnam. Protest marches, building occupations, riots, and bombings all occurred on campus. In 1974, the Police Department itself (which was located at 914 Broadway) was bombed.

In 1970, Chief Stratton retired and was replaced by John Towle. Chief Towle started as a patrolman with the department in 1957 and had worked his way up through the ranks. The 1970s witnessed the establishment of the investigations bureau and a crime prevention unit. With this organizational change, UCPD took over the investigation of all crimes on campus from the Boulder PD.

The 1980s were marked by two more murders. In 1984, Debra Boyd was beaten to death by her ex-husband, who was arrested at the scene of the crime and subsequently convicted. In 1985, a baby was smothered to death by its mother, a CU student, who plead guilty to child abuse resulting in death.

The mid-'80s were also marked by protests against the CIA and CU investments in South Africa during the apartheid era. Several demonstrations led to mass arrests in excess of 500 people in one case. In 1986, one demonstration turned into a riot requiring over 150 officers from CU, Boulder, the Sheriff’s Department, and the State Patrol to maintain the peace.

In 1991, Chief Towle retired and was succeeded by Jim Fadenrecht. As with his predecessor, Chief Fadenrecht started his career with the department as a student employee in the 1970s and consistently moved through the ranks. The 1990s was a period of growth and expansion for the department, with many new innovations such as the implementation of a Community Service Aide program (presently the Community Safety Operations program). Initiated in 1991 by Captain Dave Evans and the CU Committee on Personal Safety (COPS), the program sought to involve student employees in making positive contacts with the campus community and act as extra “eyes and ears” for UCPD in the detection of crime and suspicious activity.

Several high profile crime incidents occurring in the 1990s catalyzed the community to address public safety and increased the demand for UCPD involvement in crime prevention and community-oriented policing activities. In 1997 a transient, David “Mad Dog” Simpson, was murdered in a transient camp in the wooded area north of the Student Recreation Center. In December of that year, CU student Susannah Chase was beaten to death in the Whittier neighborhood near the Pearl Street Mall.

Under Chief Fadenrecht's tenure, the department moved to its current location, the Police and Parking Services building at 1050 Regent Drive. Prior to this, the department had been housed in a variety of basements across campus, starting in Macky and then in Wardenburg, 914 Broadway, and finally the Armory.

Chief Fadenrecht retired in January 2005. His successor, Joe Roy, began his tenure on February 1, 2005. With a long history of service to the CU community, Roy previously served as the director of the Parking and Transportation Services division. Roy lead the department through three presidential visits to campus during 2012 and the scaling-down of the annual disruptive 4/20 gathering that year, too. He retired in August 2013. Ron Burns, a former police chief from Lakewood, Colo., served as interim chief for four months, a period that included CU's destrutive floods in September 2013. 

In December 2013, Melissa Zak was named CU's fifth permanent Chief of Police. Zak, who came to CU with 20 years of experience at the Los Angeles Police Department, is the first female chief in Boulder County history. 

Through innovation and hard work, CUPD has become one of the preeminent law enforcement organizations in the county. We are proud of our reputation, not only among other police departments, but most importantly among the community of students, faculty, and staff we serve.