People and Community University

In new role, lieutenant connects community with police

Octavia Bridges—a 20-year veteran of the University of Miami Police Department and the first Black woman to serve as a lieutenant—has been promoted to oversee crime prevention and community relations on the Coral Gables Campus.
UMPD Lt. Octavia Bridges. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami
University of Miami Police Lt. Octavia Bridges. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

Octavia Bridges became a trailblazer on Dec. 3 when she was sworn in as a lieutenant of the University of Miami Police Department (UMPD). She will be the first Black woman to serve as a lieutenant, after serving as a sergeant in the department.

“We had a tremendous interest from a lot of people outside of our employees, but at the end of the day, Lt. Bridges was the best choice for us because of her 20 years of experience,” said David Rivero, UMPD chief. “She will serve as the bridge between the police and our community.” 

Since it was founded in 1969, UMPD has maintained a diversified lower rank. Currently, 37 percent of their sworn officers are Black, 47 percent Hispanic, and 32 percent are women. 

Jacqueline Travisano, executive vice president for business and finance and chief operating officer of the University, envisioned this position to strengthen the relationship between the many different community groups on campus, Rivero said. Prior to December 2020, UMPD did not have a community relations unit. 

“To promote and maintain a safe environment on campus, it is critical to have the members of our police department interacting each day with our University community,” Travisano said. “Lt. Bridges will be instrumental in that effort.” 

Bridges said that she is very excited and looks forward to this new challenge. 

“With everything that’s going on today and the future being female—as you can see around us—there are a lot of women being promoted to these high-ranking administrative positions,” she said. 

As the spring semester begins, Bridges plans to shadow a variety of diverse staff members and departments on the Coral Gables Campus to gain more insight of their day-to-day operations and learn directly from the campus community. Students and their families can expect to interact with the new lieutenant at orientations and other campus events. 

“I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to learn about the campus community,” Bridges said, although she didn’t have a chance to get out into the community as much as she wanted at the start of her position because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. “I look forward to meeting community leaders and finding out what the needs are for different organizations on campus, and what the faculty and staff concerns are,” she added. 

Born and raised in Liberty City, Bridges attended Miami Edison Middle School and then Lake Stevens Middle School before graduating from American Senior High School. She attended Florida Memorial University on a basketball scholarship, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Bridges then worked as a correctional officer for nearly three years before becoming a sworn UMPD officer more than 20 years ago. 

In addition to her full-time position, Bridges also is pursuing a master’s degree at the University. She said she is grateful to be a member of the ’Canes academic community, for the chance to grow even more as a member of the University’s police department, and to be recognized professionally by the chief. Rivero’s response to her recognition: “I’ve promoted her twice; it says a lot about her.”

Chief Rivero with Lt. Bridges
David Rivero, UMPD chief, with Lt. Octavia Bridges on the Coral Gables Campus. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami