Shortly after McCracken announced his retirement in April, the selection process was underway.
An 11-member search committee, selected to be representative of cross-campus stakeholders, led the efforts in finding a chief to follow McCracken. Darrell Jeter, director of University Emergency Management and Planning, chaired the committee.
“Generally, we began the process before even screening candidates by identifying what the priorities of the University were based on the position,” Jeter said.
Jeter said members from the Campus Safety Commission identified initiatives they hoped would serve as baseline expectations for potential applicants.
The Safety Commission said that an ideal candidate would be engaged with the campus community, understand current campus policing trends and facilitate communication and contact between the police force and the commission, Jeter said.
After making the official position’s positing available to interested applicants, an initial screening was completed to ensure that the identified qualifications and expectations were met. An interview process was then conducted with applicants by members of the search committee, campus stakeholders and law enforcement.
Once the pool of applicants was narrowed down, the University hosted two moderated question-and-answer sessions for its four finalists on campus in July. Along with Perry, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Deputy Chief Johnny Jennings, N.C. State University Police Department Field Operations Commander David Kelly and University of Texas at San Antonio Police Department Chief Gerald Lewis were in attendance.
At the sessions, the safety commission, community members, activists and faculty had the opportunity to confront and engage finalists on their thoughts about specific issues and campus trends relevant to UNC. Jeter said this feedback was considered in the search committee's final report.
History at FSU
Perry comes to UNC after having served as police chief at Florida State University for 14 years where he oversaw a police force of 67 sworn officers. UNC currently has a force of 53 sworn officers.
In Dec. 2012, Erica Kinsman, a Florida State student at the time, reported to campus police that she had been raped by an assaulter who she identified a month later as Jameis Winston. An unknown second woman also reported being sexually assaulted by Winston during that time.
Winston, now a quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, played football for FSU. As a quarterback for two seasons before declaring for the NFL draft, Winston won a Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to a national title.
Although Kinsman reported the crime in 2012, FSU did not move forward with its investigations in both cases until Oct. 2013 while Winston continued to play for the university.
In the spring of 2015, Kinsman sued Winston, accusing him of sexual battery. Winston countersued, accusing Kinsman of greed.
Melissa Ashton, FSU victim advocate program director, testified during the federal lawsuits in 2015. Ashton had worked for FSU for nine years before leaving the university two months after giving the testimony.
In her testimony, Ashton said that when then-police chief Perry learned of the investigation surrounding Winston, he called Jeanine Ward-Roof — dean of students in charge of Title IX investigations regarding sexual assaults — to ask why Kinsman had been made aware of the second victim, which had prompted her to move forward with her investigation against Winston.
Ashton testified that following that conversation, Ward-Roof terminated the investigations involving Winston in both cases.
Two weeks after winning the Heisman Trophy and leading his team to a national championship, Winston was called in for testimony by FSU in early 2014. Winston failed to answer questions, so the investigation was terminated.
In Jan. 2016, Florida State settled to pay just under $1 million to Kinsman, who filed a lawsuit against the university for violating her rights under Title IX by mishandling her report of sexual assault. The settlement also committed FSU to five years of sexual assault awareness programs and to an annual publishing report of the programs.
Kinsman’s case was highlighted in "The Hunting Ground," a 2015 documentary by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering that shares the stories of students who have been raped on college campuses and face retaliation in their legal battles.
The documentary also featured UNC graduates Andrea Pino and Annie Clark. In 2013, the two filed a Title IX complaint against the University. UNC was found in violation of the Title IX anti-discrimination law after a five-year federal investigation.
When Perry visited UNC in July as one of the four finalists, he was questioned about the FSU scandal.
“Our officers had a limited role in dealing with the victim,” he said. “Ultimately, it was turned over to the Tallahassee Police Department for review. There were lots of lessons learned. I can't say the University did everything right, but I can tell you that we take sexual assault very seriously.”
Perry also said during the questioning that followed the Kinsman-Winston case, he reformed policies surrounding instances of sexual assault on campus. The reforms made it mandatory to assign two investigators to every sexual assault case that comes through the department.
UNC student reactions
Some students at UNC have expressed concerns that Perry’s history at FSU suggests a reputation of indifference toward sexual assault on campus.
Perry’s selection comes during a period of time between August to November known as the "red zone," during which sexual assault on college campuses is statistically more likely to occur, especially to first-year students who identify as female.
To combat the rise of sexual assault on campus, the Undergraduate Executive Branch of UNC Student Government is hosting the Red Zone Initiative, which aims to educate the campus community about affirmative consent, what it means to be an active bystander and how not to perpetrate.
Malin Curry is a senior majoring in political science who serves as the secretary of the UNC Undergraduate Executive Branch of Student Government. He works to help facilitate communication efforts needed for the project.
Curry said he hopes that the new police chief, along with the rest of the administration, will be willing to work together with students who are hoping to enact changes regarding safety on campus.
“We realize that students can only do so much and at the end of the day, we’re going to have to ensure that we are reaching out to the proper administration that we need to ensure that our work not only has a greater impact, but also that it’s long-lasting,” Curry said.
Kipp Williams is a junior majoring in computer science and public policy who serves as one of the two co-presidents of the Campus Y.
Regarding marginalized communities, Williams said Chief Perry not only needs to listen to students, but also to make their concerns his priority — especially those who are most vulnerable.
Williams said he thinks the responsibility for enacting change on university campuses has historically fallen on student advocates.
"Ideally, there would be a moment in time when that constant advocacy in organizing is not necessary to make it a livable environment here," Williams said.
"But that’s what we’ve seen in the past, and even if you go way back to the food workers’ strike in 1969, the University and police have always tried to stifle students who try to do things that look bad for the institution. I just find that a deeply concerning track record for this institution and there hasn’t been a positive change toward a positive direction any time recently."