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OCU's first African American police chief selected

Dexter Nelson, a major in the Oklahoma City Police Department, was announced as the Oklahoma City University chief of police this week. [Provided]
Dexter Nelson, a major in the Oklahoma City Police Department, was announced as the Oklahoma City University chief of police this week. [Provided]

Oklahoma City University has chosen its first African American police chief, ending a months-long search for a permanent leader of the campus department.

Dexter Nelson, a major in the Oklahoma City Police Department, was announced as the campus chief of police on Tuesday. He will leave the city police department and begin his tenure March 1.

Nelson will be the first African American at the head of OCU police, only months after an allegation of racial profiling caused the former campus police chief and a lieutenant to resign on Sept. 11.

Police Director Bill Citty has served as OCU’s interim chief since Oct. 9 while the university searched for a permanent replacement. Citty, who retired as the municipal police chief in May, will continue as the campus police director to ensure a smooth transition, according to an OCU news release.

“Dexter Nelson has demonstrated an openness and willingness to engage the people he serves, while providing strong leadership through collaboration with police officers and stakeholders,” Citty said in the release.

Nelson has worked in law enforcement for 33 years since joining Oklahoma City police in 1987. During his 33-year career, he has served in patrol operations, homicide investigations, internal affairs, media relations, gang enforcement, narcotics investigations, hostage and crisis negotiations, and at the Will Rogers World Airport.

He has supervised and commanded other specialized units, such as special events, the bomb squad and tactical unit, and air support.

Nelson earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Christian ethics. He is a graduate of the 246th FBI National Academy.

In the university news release, Nelson said he would move the department forward with “collaborative problem solving, transparency and accountability.”

“Campus police officers serve in a manner different than that of a traditional police agency,” Nelson said. “They should embody the concepts of community policing, cultural diversity and fairness. My job is to ensure this and to make sure everyone is treated with respect.”

Cultural sensitivity has been a point of controversy on the OCU campus this school year. Former OCU Police Chief Rusty Pyle and Lt. Michael Kavenius resigned from the department Sept. 11 after a university employee complained of racial profiling.

That employee, Anthony Edwards, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, citing a hostile work environment. Edwards said he has received permission from the EEOC to sue OCU, in part because of the incident with Pyle and Kavenius.

After Pyle and Kavenius resigned, OCU promoted Sgt. Mark LaHue to interim chief. Less than a month later, the university received a complaint against LaHue, as well.

LaHue was placed on leave for a week before returning as a sergeant, not interim chief. During his absence, OCU hired Citty, who took over the interim role.

A campus police officer filed the complaint against LaHue, alleging the sergeant had made offensive remarks, said Steven Vincent, a former OCU officer. The officer who filed the complaint declined to comment.

Citty and the university communications office confirmed OCU was processing a complaint against LaHue, but they declined to share details of the allegations. A university investigation into the complaint is finished, and LaHue remains employed as a sergeant, said Leslie Berger, senior director of communications.

Local civil rights advocate Sara Bana praised Nelson’s selection as chief. Bana and the Oklahoma City NAACP have collaborated with OCU during the search process.

“(Nelson) is a man of humility and integrity,” Bana said in a message to The Oklahoman. “He is a professional. He has administrative experience as well as experience in the field. He has community ties and has been invested in community policing. He is a man I trust, and I know the OCU community will trust him too.”

Nuria Martinez-Keel

Nuria Martinez-Keel joined The Oklahoman in 2019. She found a home at the newspaper while interning in summer 2016 and 2017. Nuria returned to The Oklahoman for a third time after working a year and a half at the Sedalia Democrat in Sedalia,... Read more ›

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