Prior to becoming the Rice University Police Department, the Rice University Security Department was organized in July of 1967. The department consisted of a Chief, seven security officers, a dispatcher and student assistants.
In 1969, legislation was passed through the Texas Legislature allowing private universities to create a Police Department and hire licensed police officers. In 1970, RUPD came into existence. The new department's first leader was Director H.R. "Ike" Rhodes. Rhodes remained in that position until his retirement from the university in 1989. Mary M. Voswinkel, who had been Rhodes' Assistant Director since 1978, took over the PD's leadership role as Chief of Police in '89. Under Voswinkel's watch, RUPD grew in size to its current allotment of about 30 police officers.
Chief James Tate assumed leadership of RUPD in 2017, following Johnny Whitehead's retirement. The department currently employs police officers, dispatchers, parking enforcement officers, security officers, locksmiths, EMTs and administrative staff.