The university police department is committed to student safety, a priority that’s evident in the work of Sergeant Andrew Paulsen.
Paulsen has been monitoring USD’s halls, hazards and homecoming festivities for more than 10 years.
He started as a student worker in 2003. He became a security officer in 2004, was hired as a full-time police officer in 2007 and was promoted to sergeant last spring.
His first experience with law enforcement was at USD, where he became fascinated by case law in his criminal justice classes.
“Understanding case law lets you understand the nuance of law enforcement,” Paulsen said. “It’s not just what the law says, but it’s learning how to apply the law and understand what the law is meant to do and what courts have said is OK and not OK when you’re applying the law. That’s what really hooked me.”
Paulsen also received his masters of public administration degree from USD a few years later.
In addition to his role as sergeant, Paulsen has a range of other responsibilities, including use of force instructor, OC Spray instructor and field training officer.
Though training new officers requires extra vigilance, Paulsen said he loves doing it.
“Keep them safe, make sure they can do the job and keep the community safe — I’m there to teach them that,” he said. “But while I’m teaching them that, they’re bringing an exuberance or an excitement to do this job that in my mind carries back over to the trainer. If you do enjoy working with new people, their zeal to do the job will gleam back over to you and it makes the job fun.”
Paulsen’s long-term career goal is in law enforcement administration. If he’s not able to do that at USD, he’d like to find a position in another small town.
“I want to work in an agency where you get to experience everything,” he said. “That’s one of the things that I’ve liked about UPD, I get to respond to any type of call.”
Overall, Paulsen said he enjoys working in a college town.
“I think the thing I like most about interacting with students is these are people who are happy to be here,” he said. “They chose to come here, they’re excited about being at USD, they’re proud to be at USD, they enjoy the idea of experiencing new things and it’s good to interact with a community or a population base that does feel a sense of pride and desire to be here. And it makes my job easier by having to deal with that a lot of times.”
Working with a population that changes all the time allows UPD officers to constantly meet and interact with new people, he added.
“UPD isn’t a traditional police agency,” he said. “We work for a unique community, and that community changes every year.”
Since starting at UPD as a student worker in 2003, Paulsen has been deployed three times: in 2005, 2009 and 2012.
“The university has been nice enough to let me go overseas and serve my country at the same time,” he said.
Paulsen will be leaving for his fourth deployment in about a month.
In the army reserve for almost 14 years, Paulsen has reenlisted two times: once while he was in Afghanistan and again just a few months ago.
“I love the military,” he said. “I love the lifestyle, I love getting to go do strange things that I wouldn’t do if I was just a civilian.”
Paulsen said being in the military has given him a “broader perspective of the big picture.” He’s had plenty of unique experiences in Afghanistan, Kuwait and working as a prison guard for high-value detainees in Iraq, in particular. His next deployment will be in Cuba, where he’s looking forward to being near water, he said.
While his deployments have certainly affected him in certain ways, Paulsen said he doesn’t believe he’s been affected more than any other veteran.
There’s a lot he’s learned from the military that makes him a better UPD officer, he added.
“It can be difficult at times when I come back and I’m coming from that environment where the rule says, and if you break the rule, guess what, you’re in trouble,” he said. “To adjust to, the university has a completely different mindset. Yes, the rule says this, and you did it, but I’m not handling it in the same way. So I’ve got to be able to put that experience away when it doesn’t apply.”
Paulsen and his wife, Holly Paulsen, met in the military. They started dating after a year of knowing each other,
and got married in the courthouse in Vermillion 15 months after that.
Holly Paulsen has been out of the military since 2015 and now works at a graphic design firm in Sioux Falls.
They live in Centerville, SD, and have two “four-legged kids” — a German Shepherd mix and a Bichon Frise mix. They’re currently looking for a house in Vermillion, Paulsen said.
“In my personality profile, I’m essentially service-oriented and an optimist,” Paulsen said. “I’m all about how can I help the public and I look for the good in people.”
If he’s ever feeling down, Paulsen finds something hands-on to do, whether it be making flower beds or furniture.
“That physical activity clears my head,” he said. “That’s generally how I deal with it, is it’s find something I can do with my hands.”
Jef Rice, UPD assistant director, has worked alongside Paulsen since starting at the department in 2011.
Because it was Rice’s first experience with a university law enforcement agency, he said he relied on Paulsen for information regarding campus policies and procedures and how the overall community interacted.
“I enjoy working with him in all aspects,” he said.
When it came time to fill the position for a sergeant last year, Rice said Paulsen was one top candidate from the start.
“He got promoted this last year to sergeant, and he’s done a very good job as a supervisor,” Rice said. “He understands the mission and what we’re trying to accomplish and how we’re interacting with the campus community and what our goal is — to provide a safe and secure campus.”
In addition to having a good working relationship, Rice said Paulsen does a good job working with students and represents the department well.
Rice estimated that the normal officer turnover at UPD is around three to four years, making Paulsen’s 14-year
“He’s been very dedicated to the department and the university,” he said.
Rice said he also relies on Paulsen for ensuring that all new officers are trained properly, adding that he continually gets positive feedback from those he trains.
One of his trainees, UPD officer Juston Sangster, has worked in the department for close to three years.
“He is very knowledgeable. Like super, super knowledgeable — every detail of his job, of the community, what’s going on, going out,” he said. “So he was just a wealth of knowledge.”
Sangster said Paulsen was approachable from the start, which made him feel welcome. He’s an “all-around good guy,” he added.
Paulsen’s transition to sergeant went very smoothly, and he’s still very friendly, approachable and trustworthy, Sangster said.
“Every one of us was proud of him for getting (the job),” he said.
It’s a role Paulsen takes seriously, down to the tasks that may seem mundane to other people, he said.
“Our supervisors are expected to be field supervisors. That means I shouldn’t be tied to this desk,” he said. “The expectation for me is to be out there, be seen, be visible.”
Paulsen’s passion and optimism about his work and the university are clearly palpable — even when discussing the 12-hour shifts UPD often covers during USD’s homecoming week.
“D-Days is fun. I love D-Days,” he said. “We’re busy, and there’s nothing better than being busy.”
Rice said that Paulsen’s attitude, commitment to USD and interactions with students all demonstrate his diligence.
“He’s very dedicated,” he said. “He’s a Coyote.”