The secret to success in law enforcement is there is no secret, says Carl Metzger ’03MS, who became UCF’s new police chief in June after four years as chief deputy.
“Do the right thing, work hard and be prepared,” says the 29-year veteran of law enforcement. “I emphasize the importance of being professional and treating everyone with dignity and respect.
Metzger started his career in 1989 as a patrol officer at the Orlando Police Department, where he rose through the ranks and left the department in 2014 as the patrol services bureau commander.
There may have been changes in technology, training and societal expectations through the years, he says, but police work has always been and always will be about protecting and serving.
“The essential elements of the job are about protecting the helpless from those who would do them harm,” Metzger says.
To kick off his first school term as UCF’s chief, we talked with him about his career.
When/why did you realize you wanted to work in the field of law enforcement?
Growing up in the Keys, law enforcement was never a career I ever considered. I had nothing against it, but it just wasn’t on my radar. I earned a degree in finance from the University of Florida and briefly worked at a bank. I realized quickly that business wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I prayed for guidance. I knew that I had strengths and abilities along with a desire to serve, and ultimately I was called to law enforcement. Thirty years of making a difference has confirmed that I made the right choice.
What were you most proud of in your four years as chief deputy at UCF?
I am most proud of the way we adapted our agency’s security response to tragic events around the world. Following the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando and other big-event attacks around the world, I initiated specific training for our officers to respond. It should be noted that the campus response to these measures was nearly all positive, with most attendees feeling a higher level of comfort knowing that their Police Department had things under control.
During the 2016 election cycle, UCF was the only location to host both a campaign visit from then-candidate Donald Trump and President Obama. I planned all aspects of public safety for both events. Working with numerous federal, state and local agencies, I drafted plans for both events, fully briefed all law enforcement, and worked during each event to handle the many challenges that took place. Ultimately, each event was safe and successful.
As our new police chief, what do you want to accomplish on a campus as big as many cities?
Great question and good point. Our campus swells to become one of the largest cities in Central Florida during weekdays in the spring and fall semesters. Simply put, my goal is to accomplish the UCF Police Department mission: The mission of the UCF Police Department is to reduce crime and the fear of crime by providing a safe environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors and the safeguarding of constitutional guarantees.
That means hiring officers and staff who fit our university, providing them with the finest training, equipment and leadership, and partnering with the campus community to achieve our goal of providing a safe environment.
What is the biggest challenge of being UCF’s police chief?
Preparation and planning are the key to keeping our campus community safe. My biggest challenge is trying to predict threats and prepare for them. Putting valuable training time and investing our university’s dollars into the most effective deterrent and response resources are a constant challenge.
Recruiting sworn police officers capable of excelling in our campus environment is also a major challenge. We are competing against every other agency in Central Florida for qualified personnel, and it is a constant struggle.
How would you describe your management style?
My management style is based upon my 29 years in law enforcement with 20 of those years as a supervisor or manager. The culture of the Orlando Police Department undoubtedly influenced my management style as well as each of the leaders I’ve worked for. Also, I have studied and read extensively on leadership, and much of what I have read only confirmed that I was on the right track. My philosophy has always been: “Do the right thing, take care of your people, work hard and lead by example.”
Regarding leadership, one of my points of emphasis is on having a vision and communicating it. My vision for the UCF Police Department is to establish the agency as the most progressive, innovative and professional university police department in the nation. Everyone at the agency and in the Department of Security and Emergency Management understands my vision, and we are all working together to achieve this goal.
I would be remiss if I didn’t address the issue of crisis or operational leadership. During critical deployments, if time permits, creating sound operational plans, thoroughly briefing each member of the team, and instilling confidence in the ability of the team to carry out the mission is critical to each mission’s success.
During fast-moving events, staying calm, making critical decisions and keeping everyone informed of their assignments and the status of the operation promotes a “can do” attitude and the safest possible environment for everyone involved, including citizens, officers and even subjects of concern.
What drives you to compete as a runner who has completed 20 marathons?
Fitness is important to doing the job and in being a professional in the field. Running has been an effective way for me to keep fit. Marathons are a real challenge and are a worthy goal. You can’t fake it on a marathon…if you don’t train, you won’t finish.
I have found that without a goal, I can find dozens of reasons why I can’t train. So I identify a race, sign up, and put it on the calendar. That forces me to get out of the door and train for the next race.
Are there any lessons from competing in marathons that can be applied to law enforcement?
Absolutely, there are many parallels. Training for a marathon requires dedication, setting a goal and continuing to train for it even when you don’t feel like it. Police work is similar in that it requires dedication, setting goals (fitness, defensive tactics, etc.) and planning and preparing for any number of challenges. Studying ever-changing statutes, reading policies, researching best practices, staying abreast of current events in this country and around the world, being familiar with the campus/buildings, staying updated on area crime trends, knowing persons of concern on and around campus, practicing firearms skills, etc., are all part of being prepared and professional.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
I have been a public servant for my entire adult life, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Being a public servant has allowed me to find meaning in what I do. I know that during my career I have made a positive difference in the lives of countless people.
The only other profession I can see myself in would be firefighter/paramedic. I have joked more than once after a rough day, “I should have been a firefighter.” Everyone loves firefighters, and they have a similar mission.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I spend time with my family and I enjoy bicycling and running. I enjoy reading (currently reading The Power of Moments), and my favorite genre is science fiction/fantasy. It is tough to pick a favorite book (I enjoy so many), but if pushed I would say JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ring series. I’m also a big Harry Potter fan.
My guilty pleasure is watching the Big Bang Theory…Sheldon Cooper rules!
Because I grew up in the Keys, fishing has been one of my favorite activities. Doing it well requires attention to detail, focus and being calm under pressure (sound familiar?).
Tell us a little about your family.
I’ve been married to my amazing wife, Linda, for nearly 30 years. She is a physical therapist and her patients love her. We have three adult children, Nick, Becca and Daniel. Nick is a police officer with the Orlando Police Department. Becca is driving an ambulance and intends to go into either genetic counseling or a physician assistant program. Daniel is going to school to decide what he wants to do – just like I did when I was his age. We enjoy going on family vacations together, usually fishing in the Keys.
Do you have any favorite police TV shows/movies/characters? Why?
This might be surprising, but one of my favorite police characters is Jim Hopper on the science fiction-horror television show Stranger Things. Hopper, played by actor David Harbour, is the chief of Hawkins Police Department. After his young daughter died of cancer, Hopper divorced and lapsed into alcoholism. When extraordinary events took place in his town, Hopper stepped up and heroically took action. Hopper was an average person with flaws and problems, but he redeemed himself when called upon to make a difference. He is an inspiring character on a unique and entertaining television show.
What music is the soundtrack of your life?
Music is very important to me; it is my way of decompressing and distressing. Music helps me get through the long training runs and inspires me to keep moving. I love many types of music, but classic rock is my all-time favorite. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Rush, the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles are on my playlist. Other bands I enjoy are Tool, Metallica, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Sound Garden and Pearl Jam. Bands that have something important to say and great musicians who know how to write a melody are what make the difference for me.
My absolute favorite piece of music is Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 Op. 18. It is a 37-minute musical journey that continues to amaze and astound me. The piano parts are so unbelievably difficult to play, it always inspires me. If someone can learn to play something so challenging and moving, I can surely overcome whatever challenges I am facing.