Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. has selected Marlon Lynch to serve as the sixth chief of the MSU Police Department. Based on his vast experience and expertise, Lynch will also hold the title of vice president of public safety.
“The connectivity is coming full circle. I've been in policing now for 28 total years, 25 years in campus policing within higher education. Universities are anchor institutions in their communities. They connect to the city they reside in and have a positive impact on the community. The School of Criminal Justice provided that educational background, and I stay in contact as an alumnus. I'm on campus three to four times a year. To come back full circle as chief is a great feeling.”
Lynch currently serves as chief safety officer for the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. In this position he oversees more than 180 individuals in police, health system security, emergency management and community services. He jumped at the opportunity to guide his alma mater’s police department.
“This is the first time in 40 or 50 plus years that the MSU has actually opened up the position to external candidates. This is not something you look at and say, ‘Oh, well, it'll come back open at some other point.’
“I’ve always had the goal to have a role in police leadership and had identified this particular job as one that I would keep my eye on. If an opportunity presented itself, I most definitely would pursue it. The circumstances are ripe as well. I'm originally from Chicago and it's just a short drive. My family is still in the area. I actually spent a lot of time on the MSU campus growing up as a kid. I have three uncles who live in Lansing, and I have a bunch of cousins in the area. Every summer I'd come up to Lansing and spend a couple of weeks in the area and we'd come over to campus. I've been familiar with MSU for a long time.”
As vice president for public safety and chief of police, Lynch will lead the university’s 120-member police department including community engagement, cybersecurity, emergency management, parking enforcement and traffic engineering. His emphasis will be on community policing and enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
“Being part of the community is extremely important in campus policing. My philosophy is based on that: How do we engage our community, our students, our faculty, and our staff? One way to do that is to create opportunities where the community helps define the role of the police services they want, what services they receive, and how they receive them. This is a part of what we're seeing today in the national narrative on police reform.
“All of those can be applicable to college and university campuses, but it's extremely important not to take a cookie cutter approach. What I would like to do with our community is identify what's appropriate for our community and integrate those services into our department through collaboration. Create opportunities for engagement, seek input, and the accountability will come with it.
“Policing has to evolve. Our laws and ordinances are based on what society wants. That's how they're created; what are the social norms? Things have changed and it's time for some laws to change with them. Again, engage the community and find out what they expect to define the role of police.
“And there are opportunities to police in a different way. Police are always on 24/7, 365. And over the years, responsibilities have evolved to include services that were eliminated elsewhere, like some social work. ‘We’ll train the police to a certain limit to provide those services.’ We've outgrown that. The police can do a lot and they can be trained to do many things, but some of the things that we're encountering now in policing, there are experts for this. There's a reason why there are social workers. There's a reason why there are mental health professionals. There's an opportunity for joint response and to have those services be collaborative. Those opportunities are there, and I'm definitely open to working with our community to identify them.”
Do you have some short and long-term goals for the department?
“Short-term, I think it's important to get to know the staff within the department. This will be a new transition for the department, integrating a police chief who is not from within the department. Also, the listening tour with our community is going to be extremely important. I’ll spend a lot of time meeting with our stakeholders on campus and off. Our relationships with East Lansing and Ingham County are important.
“Long-term goals are to focus on the accreditation process. There will be a mix of short and long-term goals in regard to defining the role of police and the direction of our community policing strategies. But it'll all begin with direct feedback from our communities. There are some core foundational components that will need to exist, and how we fill out that framework will come from our community.”
Challenges and opportunities ahead?
“The challenge is what is the immediate need, right? It's identifying that immediate need and being effective and efficient in how we provide solutions. That's a challenge, but I also think there are opportunities.
“It's an experienced team within the Michigan State Police Department; that's an advantage. That's not always the case within university police departments. There's an experienced team here.
“We're going to have to work on our overall representation of the department. Diversity means a lot of things to a lot of people and we need to be representative of our community. The MSU community is extremely diverse, not just in race, but in gender and lifestyle, too. It's important that our police department reflect that. Those are opportunities to me.
“There will be some change that will take place, but our community will be part of that and be directly involved in how that takes place. I'll always be available. I will be on campus and I'll be actively around all the time, reacquainting myself with the institution and the university grounds. I look forward to being an active part of the MSU community and to being engaged and around all the time, not just when things may not be going well.”
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