Monday, July 9, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 151


 
 









 
Smith's choice for police chief proves it's a small world after all

Angi Patton
Guest columnist

After almost a year of sleepless nights, the UH community can rest better knowing that a new chief of police is on the way. Our fitful slumber has had
little to do with concern for campus safety and everything to do with an anticipated outcome.

It is now official: As of July 23, Robert B. Wilson Jr., UH President Arthur K. Smith's former chief of police at the University of Utah, will assume the role
of police chief at this university. The restless nights of wondering when, not if, Wilson would make his appearance are over.

As we drift off to sleep at night, we can abandon counting disgruntled UH employees. Now we can hum the lullaby, "It's a small world after all." A
small, small world, indeed.

Consider that at the University of Utah, Smith hired Wilson to replace Wayne Shepherd, the retiring veteran chief of police. At the time of his
retirement, Shepherd was commended for his decision to retire earlier than he had originally planned.

According to media sources, this changing of the guard was meant to allow Wilson time to prepare for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

The world shrinks to minuscule proportions when we take into account the cited reason for Wilson's decision to join the UH team. The Utah student
newspaper reported Wilson had decided to forgo the impending stress of the Olympic Games because of health reasons.

It is ironic that Wilson's career at Utah began and ended with the same Olympics. It is more than ironic that he opted to accept UH's offer as a result of
circumstances Smith helped facilitate.

Consider that, as the University of Utah's president, Smith was a member of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee board. He was on hand in Budapest
when the International Olympic Committee announced that Utah would be the site of the 2002 Winter Games. Smith was the first member of the
Olympic bid team to greet reporters when the Salt Lake group returned from Hungary "bringing home the gold."

Since then, the gold has tarnished in Utah. Members of the bid committee, who claim not to have acted alone, are facing federal charges for illegal
activity in securing the Games.

The difference for UH is that Wilson is replacing our veteran chief of police, George Hess, who is not as gracious as Shepherd was. Hess refused to
go quietly. Rather than retirement, he opted for dismissal, and in doing so he forfeited all the glowing accolades the administration would have
bestowed on his unblemished university record.

Rather than issue a press release praising Hess' strength of character and uncompromising convictions, the University issued a tersely stated notice
of dismissal, putting an end to 22 years of service. But dismissal did not end everything.

Hess' allegations of administrative impropriety have never been formally challenged. This is an administrative blunder, considering a strongly
worded presidential memo that promised an outside investigation to "put an end to the rumors, speculation, and conflicting charges" regarding Hess'
assertion of a criminal cover-up.

Ultimately, it proved easier to terminate than investigate, a short-sighted strategy. Hess may be gone, but his spirit lingers and the unaddressed
rumors, speculations and conflicting charges have grown to the proportion of campus lore.

It is disheartening that a tradition as vested in high moral ground as the Olympic Games would turn out to be a nefarious link in the lives of three
veteran peace officers. While the 2002 Olympic games may not have directly cost Hess his job, game playing certainly did.

Patton is an associate professor in the 
Department of Art. She can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu.


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