The following message was sent to the campus community from William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe on Dec. 13, 2023 – Ed.

Dear colleagues,

I hope this email finds you well as the semester winds to a close. I write to share updates on public safety at William & Mary. The ability to learn, work, and serve together, in safety, is a guarantee that all members of our community should be able to enjoy fully. The expanded organizational structures, below, build on lessons learned over the last several years. They reflect our commitment to continuing to evolve as we stay attuned to a changing world. 

  • As you know, Don Butler was named Chief of William & Mary Police this fall. He is responsible for professional policing, threat assessment, emergency communications, and emergency management services, which include active police patrol 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week; crime prevention services; critical incident response; criminal investigation; security technology systems; and victim/witness support services. The chief also cultivates close partnerships with police departments in James City County, York County, and Williamsburg. Chief Butler is a trusted and respected leader on campus, with a clear dedication to our community and students. We are so grateful to have him in this role.
  • As you may recall, I also separated the roles of Chief of Police and AVP for Public Safety this semester – in light of the significant increase in complexity and scope of this work. The AVP is responsible for the departments of emergency management, risk management, and environmental health & safety, as well as W&M Police. Chief Butler has been acting as interim in this role; we will post the AVP position for a national search, in January.
  • Going forward, the new AVP and W&M Police Department will report to Dr. Ginger Ambler, as Senior Vice President for Student Affairs and Public Safety. This reorganization formalizes an interim reporting relationship that has worked very successfully for the past year. It will deepen longstanding partnerships among departments supporting public safety and student life. Already, the AVP for Public Safety and Dr. Ambler co-chair W&M’s Emergency Management Team and serve together on the university’s Threat Assessment Team.

Three insights inform my thinking on the evolution of these roles: 

  • First, the work of campus policing has changed dramatically since the pandemic. Ensuring the health and safety of all who teach, learn, live, and work together at a university has become exponentially more complex. The work now calls for wide-ranging expertise, and its scope has expanded; the hours are 24/7 for the organization and everyone who leads it.
  • Second, William & Mary is incredibly fortunate to have strong, collaborative relationships in the broader security community and regional joint commands. Having a dedicated AVP position will strengthen those partnerships even more, going forward. 
  • Third, the daily efforts of the public safety team touch every part of our educational community. As an operational function, public safety is integral to our learning mission; students are the largest group that this team serves.

With all of the above in mind, it makes sense at William & Mary for public safety to report to an experienced Vice President whose operational scope shares their orientation to the mission of living and learning together. This reporting aligns with our best understanding of the current and future needs of the university.

As always, I welcome your reflections as we move forward. In the flurry of end-of-semester work, I am grateful to know how staunchly faculty and staff support each other across William & Mary.

Best regards,



Katherine A. Rowe