Since January, she has served as the interim vice president of DPS, following the retirement of previous Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Penn Police Maureen Rush on Jan. 1. Shields Anderson, who began working alongside Rush as executive director of operations in 2012, was selected from a competitive pool of applicants for the position after a nationwide search, according to the Penn Almanac.
Shields Anderson will now lead the search for Penn’s new chief of police — while Gary Williams continues to serve as interim chief of police. She previously served in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s reformed Charging unit, handling major felonies such as robberies and gun possession cases.
As interim vice president, Shields Anderson aimed to incorporate more community feedback into public safety measures by adding members of the West Philadelphia community to the DPS advisory board, along with Penn faculty and students.
“Whether you are faculty, staff, [a] student, [a] parent, or just a member of the West Philadelphia community – everyone connects to public safety on a different level," Shields Anderson said.
Shields Anderson added that she believes the police and public safety industry in the United States has undergone a “seismic shift” in the last few years following the murder of George Floyd, a movement that has inspired her to prioritize improving DPS’s transparency and welcoming feedback from the Penn community.
The University’s vice president of public safety and police chief positions — both previously held by Rush — will now be separate, which Anderson explained would allow her to focus on bolstering safety on campus in a more holistic manner. Outside of Penn’s police force, other DPS departments include the PennComm Emergency Communications Center, Security Services, Information and Security Technology, Fire and Emergency Services, and Special Services.
“Obviously, [Penn Police] is the largest department, and it is what people think of when they think of public safety. But there are other portions of our division that do just as much for safety on campus,” Shields Anderson said.
She told the Daily Pennsylvanian that for her, DPS’s redesigned website marks a shift in the organization as a whole and provides a visual representation of her goals moving forward.
“We wanted [the website] to be engaging, [and] we wanted it to be transparent,” Shields Anderson said. “We put a lot of time to talk more about what we were as an organization, but also as individuals — what we do and why we do it."
She said she is confident that DPS will make the strides necessary to make campus and the surrounding community a better and safer place.
“I feel fortunate to be able to lead the people in this building – they are the most committed people you can find,” she said. “We are facing a big shift in the understanding of what makes people safe. I’m excited to take it to the next level.”