Police chiefs answer student questions

Photo by McKenna Dosier/TheNews

Story by Sabra Jackson, Contributing writer

Western Kentucky police chiefs gathered in Mason Hall Wednesday to answer questions Murray State students submitted to the Criminal Justice Society student organization.

Chiefs were asked if they had always wanted to be a police chief or if they had a different career goal. Each chief had a different answer.

“I felt like it was a calling for me,” said Brandon Barnhill, Paducah chief of police. “Opportunity does not present itself for certain reasons.”

All police chiefs present said they were in favor of body-worn cameras. While the Murray State Police Department has removed in-car cameras, they have included the body-worn cameras for quality assurance.

“I think they are the evolution of policing,” Mayfield Police Chief Nathan Kent said.

A student sent in a question related to how media coverage is dealt with. The chiefs said that it is difficult to rely on the media because not everything reported is true.

Kent said they handle coverage patiently and deal with it case by case. Kent’s department tries to use a one-on-one approach to create an easier environment with the media.

Students asked how the chiefs prevent police officers from engaging in racial profiling. All four attending the panel said there is some sort of policy put into place for each department.

“I think one of the things we try to do in law enforcement in general is to help officers become more aware of their unconscious biases,” said Murray State Police Chief James Herring.

The chiefs talked about what they are looking for in their applicants. To students surprise, the common response was the police departments look for someone with a degree in English, communications or social work. This is because of the high volume of paperwork that must be completed with each case.

While they still like criminal justice degrees, police departments focus on people with the ability to speak in front of others and write well.

“Some of our best officers have been art majors,” Barnhill said.

Advice the chiefs had for graduates and students who are preparing for graduation was to understand what the environment will be like and to test it out before you take on the challenge.

“It pleases me that there has been so many young people that can still consider being public servants,” Kent said.