Alumnus Reaches the Top with City and Campus Police

Police Chief Larry Zacharias, Univerity of Texas - Dallas.
Larry Zacharias, Univerity of Texas - Dallas

Alumnus Larry Zacharias has always been a leader, first as Student Government Association President at Sam Houston State University, 1973-74, and later with the Richardson and University of Texas – Dallas police departments.

In Richardson, Zacharias, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice in 1975 and a Graduate Certificate in Police Administration from Sam Houston State University in 1977, served in every rank, unit, section and division before becoming the Police Chief in 2002. At the University of Texas – Dallas, he commands a staff of 70 sworn officers and civilian employees for the main campus and three satellite facilities in Dallas.

Zacharias as a Richardson motorcycle officer in 1978.
Zacharias as a Richardson motorcycle officer in 1978.
“Working in policing is like standing at a vending machine,” said Zacharias. “You don’t get anything out of it until you put something into it. I wanted to be a field training officer, an accident investigator, a detective, a SWAT team member. I wanted to do it all. I learned how to do it and then began as supervisor and commander and earned lots of respect from front-line officers because I had been in their shoes.”

Zacharias spent 32 years on the Richardson Police Department. Six months into retirement, Zacharias applied and was eventually offered the chief’s job at The University of Texas – Dallas which is located in Richardson. He is in the unique position of not only working for UT – Dallas, but he also works for the UT System, which incorporates 14 campuses across Texas. As a Richardson officer, he was somewhat familiar with the campus, but he had to learn a new way of doing business -- with a new set of rules – as campus chief.

Zacharias attends a UT Dallas basketball game.
Zacharias attends a UT Dallas basketball game.
“Relationships become much more important,” said Zacharias. “You see these people on a day to day basis throughout the years they are here. You don’t always have to be the bad guy. For minor mischief and some trespassing calls, you can refer them to the Dean of Students under the Student Code of Conduct. After that, you don’t have too many repeat offenders.”

Zacharias also said he had to learn new rules and regulations that cover university students, including the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law which protects the privacy of student education records, and the Clery Act, which requires campuses to keep and disclose information on crime on and near their campuses. Campuses are also subject to annual inspections to ensure compliance in these areas.

“I want this campus to see our police as a common site,” said Zacharias. “I want them to know that we are here and that we can handle anything.”

Zacharias began his career at the Richardson Police Department in 1977.
Zacharias began his career at the Richardson Police Department in 1977.
Zacharias got plenty of experience in policing in Richardson, where he joined the force on May 11, 1977, four days before he was scheduled to take finals. In fact, he had to have three final exams waived to start his job on time. While Zacharias said his time in patrol was most fun, he said he learned the most as a captain in charge of budgets, background investigations, computer support and equipment.

“It helped broaden my perspective to see what the entire organization was about, not just the sworn side,” said Zacharias.

While in Richardson, Zacharias attended the FBI National Academy, and he was asked to join the FBI’s international training program to teach ethics abroad. He provided programs in Brazil and Barbados. As Richardson Police Chief, Zacharias was active in the Texas Police Chiefs Association, where he served as the legislative director, and he also served on the International Police Chiefs Association’s Environmental Crimes Committee.

Zacharias served as legislative director for the Texas Police Chiefs Association.
Zacharias served as legislative director for the Texas Police Chiefs Association.
“We worked on legislation that impacted policing across the state, not just Richardson,” said Zacharias. “Teaching internationally also let me spread my knowledge on ethics and standards beyond our country to areas of the world that were starving for information.”

Zacharias’ biggest professional challenges – and some of his most well-known successes – came when he was appointed Richardson’ s chief during the Telecom Bust in 2001. Richardson was home to the telecom industry – such as Nortel, Alcatel, MCI and Ericcson – when the economy took a nose dive. As a result of economic downturn after 9/11, a hiring freeze was implemented which began to create vacancies. When the city of Richardson offered a retirement incentive package to reduce payroll, 19 police positions were vacated and Zacharias took office with 34 fewer officers than just nine months ago, including most of his top ranking officers.

To combat the loss and the city’s lack of revenue, Zacharias started a Volunteers In Policing program by convincing the City Council to modify the city ordinance on police service. Officially appointed and trained citizen volunteer then took over some of the duties of police officers, such as crime prevention programs, vacation and abandoned home checks, bicycle registration and other non-enforcement police services.

“We took citizens from our citizen police academy and gave them duties that didn’t require a badge and a gun,” said Zacharias. “We had over 50 volunteers in our program and we received an award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.”

The Richardson Police Department Honor Guard.
The Richardson Police Department Honor Guard.
When Zacharias got a share funding from participating in a $2 million seizure as part of a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, he used the funds to begin a canine program. He also established the first leadership team in the police department consisting of sworn and civilian line supervisors to develop policy and test new equipment.

When he reached the pinnacle of career, earning the respect of the rank and file as well as the city council, he decided to retire and to look for a second career.

“I wanted to go on top so I could market myself,” said Zacharias. “I was at a good age and I wanted to do something else. I was at the top of my game and no one was after me.”
Zacharias took over the reins of UT-Dallas after a poor annual inspection and has watched the campus grow to 20,000 students.

Zacharias receives the Police Service Medal.
Zacharias receives the Police Service Medal.
During his career, Zacharias has earned many accolades, including the Richardson Supervisor of the Year (twice), the Texas Police Chiefs Association Career Achievement Award, a Life-Saving Award, Police Service Medal, Richardson Citizen of the Year and the University of Texas Chief of the Year.

Zacharias said that while SHSU taught him the basics of the profession, his interaction with students and faculty is where he learned to be a leader.

“The academics changed and they are changed by courts, laws, legislation and technology,” said Zacharias. “But what Sam Houston taught me was the interpersonal and administrative skills that went well beyond the academics.”

Member of The Texas State University System