Q&A with new MSU Chief of Police Kelly Roudebush
Kelly Roudebush became the first woman chief of police in Michigan State University’s history Jan. 1. After 24 years of service with the department, the MSU alumna succeeds former chief Jim Dunlap who has served with MSUPD since 1969 and will retire April 1.
Roudebush took leadership of the 120-person staff and is responsible for cultivating connections between the department and the university in regards to safety and security operations. It is her duty to oversee emergency preparedness and campus parking at MSU, as well as accomplish programming objectives and manage departmental budgets.
The State News spoke with Roudebush over the phone in December 2018 following the announcement of her position. This is a transcript of the interview, which has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What was it like finding out you would be the chief of police?
It was amazing. I can’t even describe it: happiness, nervousness. I’m really looking forward to the new challenges.
What does it mean for you to be the first woman in this position?
I’m really honored to have been selected to be the leader of the department. As a female in an overall male-dominated field, it feels especially amazing. Whether female or not, being selected as police chief is a monumental achievement to cast on a career in law enforcement.
From my experience as being a woman in this field, I feel I’ve been very blessed to have my career be here at MSU Police. We actively recruit and value female police officers. While working here I’ve never felt hampered or adversely affected by the fact I’m female.
Why have you spent your law enforcement career here at MSU?
It’s an incredible place to work. I love working in the university setting. I love being able to interact with the student population. The opportunities for long-lasting partnerships and relationships that I’ve developed over the years in the community have been very rewarding.
This has always felt like home to me. I was a student here. I did my undergrad and pretty much never left. I just can’t imagine working anywhere else.
What lessons have you learned in your 24 years in law enforcement?
My mantra has been, “What can I do to make this agency even better so that we can effectively serve our community?”
Over time you really begin to recognize how important it is to listen to your community and what it is they need, not just what you think they need. Figuring that out and finding opportunities to break down barriers so that we can work together, we definitely need to be partners to reduce crime and keep people safe on campus.
What are some developments you have seen at MSUPD over the course of your career?
We’ve nearly doubled in size. We’ve definitely become the most technically advanced agency around the area. We have trained specialists in the areas of digital forensics and cyber crime investigations. We have a full service Special Victims Unit with a lot of dedicated officers, one of the largest canine units in the state ... the list can go on (in terms of) things that have happened since I have started here.
What are some developments you’d like to see as chief of police?
It’s always going to be continuing to improve on what we’ve already achieved. I think we’re in a very good spot right now, but we can and we should always be striving to do more and do better.
I want to continue to diversify our sworn workforce as positions become available. We’ve really put a big emphasis on that over the last three years and have made great strides, but there’s always room for improvement.
I’d like to increase the transparency in our operations, stay on top of the cutting edge of law enforcement technology and expand the capabilities to support survivors of relationship violence and sexual assault.
What are the plans you have for the department?
Nationally, there’s a significant amount of people who are suffering from mental illness and there’s a lot of intersection between someone who is suffering a mental health crisis and law enforcement response. MSU is not immune to this.
I plan to have our department join the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s One Mind Campaign. This campaign seeks to ensure successful interactions between police officers and a person who is affected by mental illness.
What would you like the MSU community to know about you?
My plan is to continue to be available to the community as I am now. For instance, I serve on Women's Advisory Council, making connections with students in that way. That’s something I want to continue.
I want people to be comfortable coming to me as they may have been also to Chief Dunlap so that we can forge these new partnerships, looking for ways to work together in the community to make it a safer place for everyone that’s here.