Police chief hearing student concerns

Photo by McKenna Dosier

Story by Destinee Marking, Staff writer

 

James Herring has nearly completed his first year as chief of Murray State Police and has made many changes to the department.

Changes made in the last year include renaming of the department, a new website and new ways for the department to receive student feedback.

In December, Public Safety and Emergency Management was approved to become the Murray State Police Department.

Herring said this is important to him because he said he believes when people think of public safety on college campuses, they think of officers who do not have complete police authority, but the Murray State Police is a full-service police department.

“When I came here I found a very professional staff of well-trained police officers, and I felt the name of the department needed to reflect that,” Herring said.

A vital part of his job is to connect with and listen to students, Herring said, so he created the Murray State Police Student Advisory Council.

“It allows unrepresented populations to have a voice,” Herring said.

The Student Advisory Council consists of nine students. Herring said the initial council consisted of students who expressed interest in being involved, but for upcoming semesters, campus-wide forums will be held to choose members.

Herring said the department’s new mission, vision and values statements were developed with input from the council in mind.

Herring is also championing a program called Bridging the Gap.

Herring said this program will consist of meetings in which exercises will be done that encourage participants to use eye contact, read non-verbal body language and listen to police.

“Once that is done, facilitators guide conversations regarding relationships, perceptions and expectations involved in police community interaction,” Herring said.

Herring said one of the things that stood out to him most this year was Murray State students.

“I’ve really been impressed by the quality of the students here and the dedication they have to learning,” Herring said.

A new website was created to match the new name of the department, as well as to be more user friendly and informative to students, faculty and staff.

Herring said he wants the department to be transparent, so he wants departmental policies to be available on the website by next fall.

Richard Mehlbauer, patrol sergeant, said he was apprehensive at first about a new chief of police, but Herring’s value of transparency stood out and put him at ease.

“From the get-go, he was very transparent,” Mehlbauer said. “That meant a lot.”

Herring moved from North Carolina and he said he has learned a lot about Murray and the people since coming here.

“Murray is great place,” Herring said. “I understand why people come here and don’t want to leave.”

Overall, Herring said he feels confident about the work that was done this year and will continue to focus on building relationships with students.

Roy Dunaway, captain of administration, said he cannot speak highly enough about Herring and what he has done to the department.

Dunaway said among Herring’s stand-out qualities are his progressiveness and overall knowledge of his job.

“His leadership skills, his management skills and his knowledge of university policing are unprecedented,” Dunaway said. “He is a genius.”