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Doctoral degree links new UGA police chief to College

Kristen B. Morales

October 19, 2018

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A degree in education is flexible enough to use both in and out of a classroom—or, in the case of the University of Georgia’s new police chief, it can also work for law enforcement.

Dan Silk (A.B. ’97, M.A. ’00, Ph.D. ’10) was named earlier this fall as the new chief of the UGA Police Department. Silk’s first two degrees are in religion, and he received his doctorate in adult education (now learning, leadership and organization development) from the UGA College of Education.

His career in law enforcement began when he was an undergraduate student. He was hired by the Athens-Clarke County Police Department in 1995 and went on to head the community policing, vice investigations and internal affairs units, and also served as the police chief’s chief of staff. While working for the police department, Silk continued his studies at UGA; his master’s is in Islamic studies.

After the 9/11 attacks, Silk left the police department and went to work as a special agent for the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. This work took him to Afghanistan for two assignments and another to Israel before returning to the Athens police force in 2004. He served as the training administrator and then as a captain before moving to the UGA Police Department in 2010, where he headed the Communications/911 center and the bureaus of Training and Certification and Field Operations.

Silk’s career has also been influenced by a Fulbright Fellowship he received in 2009, when he studied outreach between Muslim communities and British police; the topic contributed to his dissertation and Ph.D., which he received in 2010. For the past eight years he has taught upper-level undergraduate criminal justice/political science courses for UGA’s Criminal Justice Studies Program, independent courses for students working through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities and a graduate course in the School of Public and International Affairs.

He has also been regularly called on to present about community policing around the world, including for conferences hosted by the United Nations and for the U.S. Department of State in Nepal.

In an interview in the Athens Banner-Herald, Silk said that despite his travels with the Department of State or even his work locally with ACCPD, he’s most at home in an academic environment. “There is nowhere, however, I want to work other than at UGA, and I’ve known that for quite some time,” he said.

Silk replaces former chief Jimmy Williamson, who retired June 30 from the UGA police force after 30 years there—14 spent as chief. Silk was selected for the position after a national search.

He told the Banner-Herald he has no plans to make significant changes following Williams’ departure. “I’ll invariably have my own unique view on some topics, but I have no plans to substantially change the focus of the department. It’s an agency filled with dedicated, bright, courageous people, and they already do a great job,” he said. “My primary goal is to do whatever I can to help our officers to continue to be as thoughtful, skilled and community-focused as they have been in the past.”