Ron Dickerson Succeeds Retiring Randy Brashears as UMLPD Chief

A woman in a purple sweater places a pin on the lapel of a man in a police uniform Image by Ed Brennen
New UMass Lowell Police Chief Ron Dickerson '13 is pinned with his badge by his wife, nursing alumna Michele Dickerson '85, in a recent ceremony at University Crossing.

By Ed Brennen

It was not a foregone conclusion, Chancellor Julie Chen says, that longtime Deputy Chief Ron Dickerson ’13 would replace the retiring Randy Brashears as chief of the UMass Lowell Police Department.

“We could have done a national search, but it was clear from the feedback we got from across campus that elevating Ron was the best decision for the university,” Chen said during Dickerson’s recent swearing-in ceremony at University Crossing.

After working mostly behind the scenes for 12 years as Brashears’ deputy, Dickerson appreciates the support.

“It’s humbling that people recognized I was doing a good job,” he says. “You hope you have support, but you’re not the one who’s out front as deputy chief.”

Dickerson, who earned a master’s degree in criminal justice from UML, takes the helm of a department with 35 sworn officers and eight dispatchers. The university also contracts with security firm Securitas, which is managed by Director of Police Dispatch and Security Operations Ken Wilson.

Brashears, who led an era of transformative growth in his 13 years as UMLPD chief, says he has “every confidence” that Dickerson will continue that trajectory.

Three men and a woman pose for a photo while standing between two flags in front of a blue backdrop Image by Ed Brennen
New University Police Chief Ron Dickerson, second from right, poses with, from left, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations Steve O'Riordan, retiring Police Chief Randy Brashears and Chancellor Julie Chen.
“Ron gets our DNA. He understands what we do as a student-focused public safety agency,” Brashears says.

A native of Billerica, Massachusetts, Dickerson earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Granite State College in Concord, New Hampshire. He spent the first 26 years of his career with the Nashua Police Department.

In 1982, Dickerson was invited to attend a mixer on South Campus by some friends who attended UML. There, he met nursing student Michele Gagnon ’85. They married in 1986 and have two grown children.

“It’s amazing that I’ve been given this opportunity to take over such a professional police department,” says Dickerson, who met with us in his office at University Crossing to talk about his new role.

Q. What are some of your top priorities as chief?

The biggest thing is to reach out and see what the needs are of the university. We have a lot of good relationships on campus, but I don't want to assume that we are meeting everyone's expectations. In fact, I made myself a list of all the different heads of divisions at the university, and I plan on visiting everyone on this list in the next couple of months — even a five-minute visit to show them what we do and what we can do for them. We are also driving toward accreditation from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission. That’s a big push for us — making sure all our operating procedures are in line with best practices. We're probably within a year and a half of becoming accredited.  
A man in a plaid shirt gestures toward a wall with framed police memorabilia Image by Ed Brennen
As deputy chief, Ron Dickerson put together a display at police headquarters chronicling the history and growth of the department over the past decade.

Q. At your swearing-in ceremony, Chancellor Chen spoke of the judgment that’s required of officers every day when working on a college campus, where most of the people are under the age of 21. What does that mean to you?

Our relationship with the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities is so critical. When we send them a report about a student, they address it fast — within days — so we have very few repeat offenders. And our Community Policing collaboration with the Lowell Police Department is also key. Our students live in these neighborhoods, and when Lowell Police sends us a report about a party, for instance, our Campus Resource Officers, Jeff Connors and Bill Emmons, are following up with the students the next day. They explain to them that “you’re in a neighborhood where someone’s got to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning to go to work. Imagine if that was your parents.” So we have a good rapport with the students.

Q. There’s been a national conversation around police reform following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. How does UMLPD fit into this discussion?

A. Going out and forming relationships with different groups on campus, and letting them see that we're no different than anyone else, is important. I understand the stereotype of placing police officers in one category, but we break those barriers down. I don't think we have that negative reputation on campus, which I am thankful for. But people have to get to know you to completely trust that. So, we strive to tell our officers that every one-on-one contact is so important. Be professional and smile and show them that we are here for the community.  

Q. How do you like to de-stress when you’re not on the job?

A. If you go to the Campus Recreation Center, you’ll see me there working out when it opens up at 6:30 in the morning. I like to go four or five times a week for weight training and cardio. It’s interesting to meet all the different students who work out there.