DPS Executive Director John Thomas retires

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Department of Public Safety chief John Thomas initiated the DPS Cadet Program. (Photo courtesy of USC News)

USC Public Safety Department chief John Thomas is retiring, Senior Vice President David Wright said in a community-wide memo on Monday.

Thomas, who has worked to improve officer training standards since his appointment as Chief DPS in 2016, will remain in office until a nationwide search for his replacement is completed. Thomas has also participated in the DPS Community Advisory Board and the DPS Cadet Program. Under Thomas, every cadet who graduated from the program went on to college, with six attending USC.

In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Thomas said he believed the DPS cadet program to be his greatest legacy. The program welcomes first generation students from the surrounding community to USC to learn about the value of a college education. Since 2014, every student who has taken the program has gone to college.

“Over the past 15 years, I have met so many great students and still connect with some of them,” Thomas said. “I think I just fell in love with that atmosphere and how I was instrumental in keeping them safe and just getting to know them.”

Thomas also recalled his early days working with DPS, feeling intimidated by high crime rates and large numbers of students in what he described as a “chaotic” system. Although he said he had no plans to stay for more than two years, Thomas said he was glad he did. He felt ready to retire this year, having “confidence” in the Community Advisory Board.

“USC has given me so many great opportunities,” Thomas said. “It’s one thing to be the head of the DPS, but it’s another for the students to stay in touch…. It’s amazing to me and it’s something I think I would never have had the chance to experience.

David Carlisle, deputy chief of DPS, said Thomas was a well-respected chief thanks to his work to keep students safe and to invest in community outreach initiatives.

“Chef Thomas and I are friends and colleagues, we’ve been working together at DPS since late 2006,” Carlisle said. “We have both worked together over the past 15 years and have seen a lot of positive changes at DPS under his leadership – both as Captain, as Deputy Chief and over the past nine years as that chef. We’ve made a lot of improvements for a lot of great people in the department.


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