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Police Chief Lillard named national runner-up in Campus Safety magazine’s annual awards

Steve Lillard

Western Carolina University Chief of Police Steve Lillard was named national runner-up in the higher education division of Campus Safety magazine’s 2020 Director of the Year awards.

The awards were announced during the magazine-sponsored annual conference, held July 7-8 as an online summit this year because of COVID-19.

Campus Safety commended Lillard for his efforts to provide a wide array of safety programming for students, including Rape Aggression Defense (RAD), Run-Hide‐Fight active shooter awareness, sexual assault risk awareness, alcohol risk awareness and study-abroad safety programs.

In 2019, WCU’s Police Department had more than 26,000 interactions with individuals, a record number for its community outreach programs, the publication noted.

Despite an enrollment increase of more than 5 percent in 2018, the community-oriented policing efforts of Lillard and his department led to a decrease or at least a plateau of all nonsexual Clery-reportable crimes, including 33 percent fewer burglaries, no reported arsons and 83 percent fewer aggravated assaults.

During the past year, Lillard also launched a campus bicycle patrol program as part of an overall community policing effort. The bike patrol program helps officers improve or maintain fitness levels while decreasing the department’s carbon footprint.

Lillard also partnered with Southwestern Community College to create a joint Basic Law Enforcement Training program that will enable students to become state-certified law enforcement officers at the end of their junior year at WCU.

“I am glad to see Chief Lillard receiving this much-deserved recognition,” said Brian Thomas, WCU assistant chief of police, who led a departmental effort to nominate him for the Campus Safety honor. “He is not much for self-promotion, but I am glad to see his work on behalf of our students and their safety be acknowledged.”

Mike Byers, vice chancellor for administration and finance, said Lillard has taken numerous steps to improve the police department, both internally and in the eyes of the campus community.

“His values and expectations are reflected in his staff, who have engrained themselves into the campus culture and ensure that every member of the campus community is treated with dignity and respect,” Byers said. “While Chief Lillard is always visible at high-profile events on campus, it’s often his efforts and contributions behind the scenes that help foster a sense of safety and security throughout the campus.”

Lillard, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, was named the university’s police chief in February 2018 after serving as assistant chief since 2011. He holds two degrees from Western Carolina University – a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 1996 and master’s degree in public affairs in 2014.

The top honor in the Campus Safety magazine’s higher education division this year went to Edgar Rodriguez, former chief of public safety at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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