New BUPD Chief Robert Lowe Values Inclusivity and Transparency, Will Contribute to Student Well-Being
He wrote his dissertation on reducing implicit bias and says growing up amid the diversity of Cambridge helped shape his career
The next chief of the Boston University Police Department earned a doctorate in education from NYU Steinhardt this year with a dissertation titled “Reducing the Influence of Implicit Bias in a Municipal Police Department.”
It’s one of Robert Lowe’s core values and a goal he will bring to the job when he starts August 1.
“I do think the idea of being inclusive is something people are being more intentional about now, especially after the George Floyd killing,” says Lowe, who has served 22 years with the Cambridge Police Department, most recently as superintendent of the Operations Division. “And for me, making sure that’s in the front of my mind is important as I come into this new leadership role.”
“He is part of the next generation of police leaders,” says Kelly Nee, BU’s chief safety, security and preparedness officer. “The expectations of the community have changed,” she adds.
“I’m not so sure if I represent sort of a new generation,” Lowe says, noting that the basic tenets of supportive community policing have been around for a long time. “But it’s a huge compliment and I’ll take it.”
As BUPD chief, Lowe will oversee almost 60 detectives, officers, and command, supervisory, and administrative staff, as well as the 50 professionals who are responsible for Medical Campus Public Safety and NEIDL security. The department, which secures more than 140 acres of BU-owned property and adjacent streets, recently received its fourth reaccreditation from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission.
A survey of the BU community as part of the BUPD hiring process showed that ideas such as inclusion and transparency were considered important values for a new chief, Nee says. It’s part of the national reckoning around race and policing since Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis in 2020.
He is part of the next generation of police leaders.
Lowe embodies what many police leaders are moving toward—“a new way of thinking,” says Nee, who was the department’s first woman chief when she was hired in 2017; she was promoted to her current position in February. “And as a Cambridge native, with 22 years of experience on the Cambridge department, he understands the local climate.”
Lowe agrees, and says that growing up in a city where he was around a diverse population all the time, whether it’s diverse demographics or just diversity of thought, helped shape his career.
“Being able to come to the table and have conversations with people that have different opinions and being able to respect each other in those interactions and walk away from those conversations, maybe disagreeing, but still respecting each other as individuals,” was important, he says.
He expects a smooth transition to a campus role. During his Cambridge career, Lowe had extensive contact with Harvard and MIT, and his first law enforcement job was as a campus police officer at Suffolk University, from 1996 to 2001.
When Cambridge experienced an unusual increase in shootings in 2021, Lowe developed and implemented a data-driven strategy that included increasing police officer visibility and community engagement to build trust with the residents in the neighborhood called the Port, where he grew up. It was also the epicenter of the problem. In the six months following the plan’s implementation, the neighborhood saw a 57 percent reduction in gun violence.
“Superintendent Lowe has demonstrated a remarkable passion to learn and grow as a leader and police executive,” says Cambridge Police Commissioner Christine Elow. The Harvard Square Business Association presented Lowe with its Public Service Award at its recent annual meeting.
“He will focus on providing transparency and inclusivity of department operations, promoting and contributing to student well-being and ensuring the University is prepared in the event of emergencies or significant events,” Derek Howe, BU’s senior vice president for operations, said in announcing Lowe’s hire.
Lowe graduated from the National Preparedness Leadership Institute at Harvard and the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Va. He is also a Marine Corps Reserve veteran and a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association. He earned a law degree from Massachusetts School of Law in 2011 and a bachelor of science in law enforcement from Western New England University in 2006. He and his wife have four children and live in a Boston suburb.
Nee chaired the 12-member search committee, comprising faculty, staff, and administrators. An outside executive search firm identified 27 “high-quality” applicants, she says, and the committee narrowed the list to 10 for remote screening and then to 5 who were invited to interview in person. Although any of the five would have been good, she says, Lowe was the committee’s unanimous choice.
The BU community will find him congenial and approachable, she says: “We laughed a lot in the interview.”