You will rarely find UTA Police Chief Kim Lemaux sitting behind a desk. It’s not who she is.
“I just enjoy people too much. I love meeting people and love being around people,” Lemaux said. “My personality is to be out in the community versus behind a desk.”
Lemaux officially started July 1 and is rounding out her first year as police chief. Lemaux brought three very important things to UTA in her first year, President Vistasp Karbhari said.
“The first is just from her personality,” Karbhari said. “She is very dedicated and very caring. She is very people oriented, and for a campus that is very important,” Karbhari said.
Second, she brings tremendous experience from the Arlington Police Department, Karbhari said.
“She has dealt with things that I hope we will never have to deal with, but knowing that you have someone in that leadership position who has had to work some very hard cases and has had to take on some very hard assignments brings a good perspective to us,” Karbhari said. “Her preparation for that puts our police force at a much better footing.”
Third, Karbhari said she brings her knowledge and contacts from the rest of the Metroplex.
“I have yet to find a single person who does not think that she is exceptional,” Karbhari said.
Change of course
Before beginning more than 30 years in law enforcement, Lemaux was on a different career path. Like many students, she was not sure what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
“When I started on my degree I thought I wanted to be an accountant, and then I just decided I didn’t want to be inside, behind a desk,” Lemaux said. “I found that I really enjoy people and working with people. I knew if I pursued a career in accounting, that would probably limit the amount of interactions that I had.”
Lemaux said going on several ride-alongs was what made her realize she wanted to be a police officer.
“I rode out and went, ‘I can do this, and I think I would really enjoy doing this, and I could probably do it better than some of the officers that I saw.’ ” Lemaux said. “This is a way I can make a difference, and have a higher purpose and meaning for my life.”
Lemaux said she was blessed to have parents who were very supportive and didn’t limit her to typical gender roles.
“I had friends whose parents guided them into nursing or teaching or clerical type work,” Lemaux said. “They never did that. They were always very open and supportive of really any path that I took.”
Love of travel
When Lemaux isn’t protecting the campus, she is embracing her passion for traveling. While in Florence, Italy, she visited some of the main attractions but spent a lot of time exploring the back roads and learning the culture and talking with the local people. In Switzerland, she walked through neighborhoods at night speaking with people and was invited to dinner by a local family.
“I enjoy seeing the typical tourist sites, but one of the things I really enjoy is really learning about the culture and the people,” Lemaux said.
Lemaux’s love of traveling may have been influenced by her parents in her early life, she said. Lemaux was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., but moved around the U.S. when her father got a job with the Army and Air Force exchange service. She went from Oakland, Calif., to Garland, Texas, to Hawaii, where she graduated from high school. After her first year of college at San Francisco State University, she eventually attended UTA.
Lemaux said she has experience deeply rooted in community-based policing from her time with the Arlington Police Department. Lemaux said grew up in an environment of community engagement, and wants to encourage that at UTA.
“At this point in my life and career to get to meet so many new people and really learn so many things,” Lemaux said. “It’s like we [UTA] are our own city and community, and each week I learn about a new group that contributes to helping the university.”
New challenges in a new position
Lemaux said she is honored but has mixed emotions about being the first female police chief at UTA and wishes it wasn’t an issue in 2013 when she was hired.
“I’m honored that I can be a role model and kind of break the barriers. Hopefully in the future it won’t be news that a woman got selected for that type of position,” Lemaux said. “It’s a little sad and disappointing when we are recognizing that and celebrating that.”
Lemaux faced new challenges when she began her role as police chief. She said the police department is responsible for services beyond the scope of the services provided in the municipal environment, such as parking and transportation.
“While it’s been a challenge getting up to speed and learning about those areas, it’s also contributed to my enjoyment of the job,” Lemaux said.
Lemaux handled the difficulties she encountered in her first year like a true professional, said John Hall, vice president for Administration and Campus Operations.
“I don’t think we could have hired a better person to be our police chief,” Hall said.
Lemaux’s ability to understand the security needs of a college campus environment, her effective communication abilities and her strong organizational management abilities make her well suited for her role at UTA, Hall said.
Lemaux has formed a very strong working relationship with many across the campus, and those who have had the opportunity to work with her on various initiatives have been impressed with her and have enjoyed working with her, Hall said.
“When you have your entire police force basically singing your praises even though you are in the position where you tell them what they’ve done right and what they’ve done wrong and they still think you’re great, that is a special person,” Karbhari said.