John Seto, Ann Arbor’s former chief of police, began his law enforcement career 25 years ago working for University Housing. This fall, he returns to University Housing — as its new director.
Seto was named the new director of the University’s Housing Security and Safety Services on Aug. 31. He retired from AAPD in July after having served as chief since 2012.
Seto succeeds Tim Young, who resigned from the director position in July.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for me to come back as a director,” Seto said in an interview with The Michigan Daily. “I really look forward to being a part of a great team in the Department of Public Safety and Security.”
Seto said reacclimating and re-educating the student population every year will be a large and sometimes difficult responsibility required in his new role.
“Although there are going to be challenges, they’re good challenges,” Seto said. “I look forward to working with a lot of people to address them.”
Eddie Washington, executive director of DPSS, said Seto will bring a wealth of experience to University Housing Security.
“Throughout his service, he built a strong record of leadership, community engagement and collaboration,” Washington wrote in an e-mail interview. “Seto has been a strong supporter of DPSS and the University community and has partnered in many student safety initiatives over the years.”
The University’s selection has drawn some criticism. Because Seto oversaw the AAPD when an officer fatally shot Ann Arbor resident Aura Rosser last year, some students said Seto’s selection was a poor choice.
Following a Michigan State Police investigation, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office declined to press charges against the officer, considering the shooting an act of “lawful self-defense.” The shooting occurred as national conversations focused more closely on police brutality, particularly in light of incidents in Ferguson, Mo. and Baltimore, Md.
Rackham student Austin McCoy said Seto’s appointment is concerning. McCoy is also a member of Ann Arbor to Ferguson, a local activist group that organizes against police brutality.
“I understand Seto’s history with U-M goes back to the start of his career in law enforcement, and that it was positive,” McCoy wrote in an e-mail. “However, I find the University’s hiring of him troubling considering how one of his officers shot and killed a black woman on his watch. The University’s decision seems tone-deaf.”
Rackham student Maryam Aziz, another member of Ann Arbor to Ferguson, said she is uncomfortable with the hire.
“Under Seto’s tenure, Aura Rosser was shot and killed almost a year ago, a death that brought the Black Lives Matter Movement to Ann Arbor,” Aziz wrote in an e-mail. “While shallow changes such as body cameras were more or less given consideration, they have not been enough.”
In the wake of the Rosser case and other incidents across the country, the Ann Arbor City Council unanimously voted to upgrade police in-car and body cameras in December 2014. The cameras are intended to assist officers in objectively reviewing police interactions with the public.
In February, Seto addressed the Rosser shooting during an Ann Arbor City Council meeting.
“The community expects its officers to resolve a wide range of conflict,” Seto said. “When doing so, they have a duty to protect citizens who are in danger and they have a right to protect themselves. Both were required of Officers Ried and Raab on November 9.”
Through DPSS spokesperson Diane Brown, Seto declined to discuss the case. However, Brown said the division is willing to engage in dialogue with students who have concerns about Seto’s hiring or any other aspect of DPSS.
“We welcome the opportunity to speak with those who are concerned with DPSS programs, procedures or hirings,” she said. “Our number one priority is students.”