The candidates for USU Police chief have been narrowed down to two this week, vying for the position that opened after the former chief and director of public safety, Michael Kuehn, accepted a position at Brigham Young University-Hawaii in April.
Earl Morris and Kevin Gillilan both presented to the campus community at the Merrill-Cazier Library during the week of May 20. While their visions for USU Police were similarly generic, basing their plans off the universities they currently work at, Morris and Gillilan had striking personalities and took questions from the audience.
“One of the things that is important for me to emphasize is that I didn’t apply for this job at USU for a retirement job,” Morris said. “If I were to be selected for this position, I want to be able to build upon existing greatness. I want to listen to the great things that are already happening.”
Morris decided to leave as the director of public safety for BYU-Hawaii last year, opening the position for Kuehn. While there, he has worked at the Polynesian Cultural Center and has focused on risk management and emergency management.
“When I think about building a team, the people down in Blanding are just as important to me as the ones here in Logan,” Morris said.
He plans to put a focus on mentoring students, exceeding state minimum training guidelines and utilizing federal, state and local training opportunities.
Morris recounted the events of January 2018 when he had to respond to a ballistic missile alert which turned out to be a false alarm. The event has been compared to the code blue alert fiasco at USU earlier this year. Morris said that scenario-based training and campus emergency exercises are part of his plan and important to achieving his goals as police chief.
“The better trained we arethe better we will work together, and we will be able to do the things we need to do to be successful,” Morris said.
Morris is internationally recognized as a law enforcement expert and he initiated the criminal justice program at BYU-Hawaii. He also taught criminal justice, criminal investigation and criminology to university students.
The second candidate, Gillilan, is the chief of police at the University of North Alabama, and he has been in law enforcement for 24 years. He is certified as an FBI instructor, a criminal investigator and a computer forensic investigator.
Gillilan holds a bachelor’s in criminal justice, a master’s in justice administration and a doctorate of business administration in criminal justice.
“I can give you an entire bio but that’s not important,” Gillilan said. “What’s important is making sure the community knows I care.”
Gillilan said he is “very big on accountability” and that it is vital to him to live up to the public’s expectations on accountability.
“Service is our passion, people are our heart, generosity is our privilege,” Gillilan said. “The ultimate purpose is to make a difference.”
USU’s police department has 12 full-time and six part-time state-certified police officers. The department has a 24-hour dispatch center and a team of student security officers. The candidate chosen will be in charge of this entire team.
For Gillilan, this means visibility, transparency and community surveys are important to making sure the operation runs smoothly for both his officers and the people they protect.
Morris said that for him, his vision is like a scale. The sides of those scales, he said, will always be out of balance with people being more important than process.
“Not a lot of people are going to stand up when we die and say, ‘This person was the most important policymaker in the world.’ No, they are going to talk about how you made them feel,” Morris said.
Morris received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Weber State University and a master’s degree from Utah State University. He graduated from the Utah Police Academy and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
“If I were selected, I want to build upon the greatness,” Morris said. “I never come in and cut an organization. I do a lot of watching, listening and doing what the experts feel we should be doing as an organization.”
Between Miami and Hawaii, for the last 7 years Morris has been away from his children and grandchildren who live in Utah. He said that he wanted to come back to Utah and it was just a coincidence that the position opened up when Kuehn went to Hawaii.
“Mike took my position at BYU and I have the chance to come back to one of my other favorite places,” Morris said. “However, I am planning to come to Utah no matter what, even if I don’t get this position. I don’t have a lot of irons in the fire.”
Both candidates agreed that the physical presence of police officers on campus helps to breed confidence in public safety. Bike patrol, foot patrol, vehicle patrol and community patrol are all ways the candidates said that they would work on this visibility.