The assistant police chief in Minneapolis will soon head the police force that protects roughly 50,000 students and the faculty and staff of the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities.

Matthew Clark has accepted the new job and will take over the 50-member department on July 6, the university announced Tuesday. He succeeds Greg Hestness, who is retiring after 11 years on the job. The other finalist to replace Hestness was Colleen Luna, commander of the St. Paul Police Department's property crimes unit.

Clark has been an assistant to Minneapolis Chief Janeé Harteau since 2012 and has been on the municipal force since 1993 in duties including investigator, academy supervisor and leadership positions in two precincts.

As assistant chief, he's been heading daily operations for a department staff of nearly 1,000. He's had command responsibilities for major events, including last summer's All-Star baseball game festivities at Target Field.

"I believe his background in community-based policing and stakeholder relations will be key to his success in this high-profile, critically important position," Vice President for University Services Pamela Wheelock said in a statement announcing Clark's appointment.

Clark earned a bachelor's degree in law enforcement and public administration from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and a master's in public administration/human services from Concordia University in St. Paul.

In an interview shortly after his acceptance of the job was announced, Clark said his first priority is to "listen to members of the department, university services, students and faculty [to] understand their definitions of public safety. … I will be spending a lot of time listening and finding out what people are looking for in a police department."

Clark said he tries to live by this credo: "Understand before trying to be understood."

The campus police department has been under scrutiny in recent months for the limits it puts on describing suspects being sought for crimes on or near campus, a policy shift that Clark said he wants "to listen to more people about. … I do understand the reasons for it."

The change in policy in February followed criticism that authorities sometimes release racial descriptions and little other concrete information about at-large suspects.

Last fall, Clark was offered and turned down the chief's post for the 178-officer police force in Bellevue, Wash., a city of nearly 130,000.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482