David Donaldson wearing a UNCW police uniform on campus

May 27, 2021

David Donaldson could never have imagined the journey that awaited him when joining the UNCW Police Department 29 years ago. As part of an informal class assignment in the Law Enforcement Technology program at Bladen Community College, he applied for a police officer position at the university. He had never visited UNCW and was not familiar with the university’s police department.

“While I didn’t hold hope that I would get the job, I took the assignment as seriously as I would any assignment,” Donaldson said. “I could not be more grateful for the opportunities I’ve had at UNCW. We know that the college environment changes the lives of students; I don’t think we often pause to think about how it changes the lives of those of us who are part of that experience.”

Donaldson, who was promoted to chief of police in 2003, will officially retire on June 1, 2021. Under his leadership, the police department implemented enhanced training for officers, dispatchers and university stakeholders to promote campus preparedness during emergencies, including the early implementation of active attacker training for the campus community. He also oversaw the UPD facility expansion project completed in 2018 to address the facility needs associated with campus policing, as well as significant improvements to the campus emergency notification system. As of publication time, the police department is currently in the final stages of becoming nationally accredited.

“Any success that I have had is due to the folks I work with,” Donaldson said. “I have never believed that I brought to the job more than a farmer’s work ethic, a love for people, a desire to be successful, and an unbridled sense of excitement for my chosen field.”

The next chief of police should know they will be “caretakers of a precious jewel and thousands of precious souls,” Donaldson added.

“Whoever comes along behind me is assuming leadership of some of the most capable, dedicated and effective law enforcement professionals,” he continued. “Many of them could make more money elsewhere, but they choose to work in this environment because they believe in what we do. We are a part of the process to help make students’ dreams come true. What we do here is about the success of the university.”

Major Christian Bertram III has been appointed interim police chief.

-- Venita Jenkins