UT police chief diagnosed with lung cancer, continues to reform campus policing

Emily Hernandez

A diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer unrelated to smoking has not stopped UT Police Chief David Carter from continuing to push for campus policing reform. 

Carter, 61, who also serves as assistant vice president for campus security, told the Austin American-Statesman he visited the doctor after he felt he was not properly recovering from back surgery earlier this year. He said he was shocked when his doctor discovered tumors on his spinal cord from lung cancer, according to the Statesman. Carter did not provide any comments to The Daily Texan. 

“If you look at it in terms of statistics, mine aren’t good,” Carter told the Statesman. “I’ve pretty much tried to focus on what do I have to do to beat it. That is where I’ve tried to be in this process.”

Despite his diagnosis, Carter continues to work from his office on campus, reorganizing the department into three new units focusing on investigations, community engagement, and public order. He is also partnering with the Steve Hicks School of Social Work to investigate challenges to campus policing this semester.

According to the Statesman, Carter has worked in public safety for three decades, from his start as a patrol officer at the Austin Police Department to police chief for the University. He told the Statesman his cancer diagnosis reforming the way police departments operate on college campuses across America feel even more pressing. 

“We have these huge challenges that remain,” Carter told the Statesman. “We are policing a polarized community, and I want to say, ‘Let’s figure out a way to put our energy in the right place.’”

UTPD spokesperson Noelle Newton said she has admired and respected Carter since she worked as a FOX 7 News Edge reporter while he was APD’s chief of staff. 

“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work for him,” Newton said in an email. “What he is doing here at UT is revolutionary. I often tell him we should change our mission statement from ‘serving those who will change the world’ to ‘changing the world of policing.’ It’s exactly what he’s doing. We are so very fortunate to have him.”

During his time at APD, Carter also mentored current APD chief Brian Manley, who told the Statesman Carter is one of the most strategic leaders he has worked for.

“The way in which he approaches difficult situations from both an organizational and systemic approach, trying to keep emotion out of the decision and out of the moment so you remain calm,” Manley told the Statesman. “And then, thinking about not only the decision you make in the moment, but the impact that decision will have across the operations.”

Carter told the Statesman while he is not sure how long he will be able to advocate for policing reform, he will do so as long as he can. 

“I absolutely feel called to do it,” Carter told the Statesman. “The question is, what can I do in the time frame I have?”