Randy Hinds, vice president of operations at KSU, said veteran law enforcement officer Roger Stearns was “overwhelmingly the No. 1 choice,” out of a pool of 100 applicants.
Stearns, 42, who has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience in higher education, served the past four years as chief of police at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas, near the Mexican border.
Stearns previously served on the police departments for Vanderbilt University, University of Texas-Dallas and the University of Arkansas. He earned a bachelor’s degree in comm-unications from the University of Arkansas and also attended the FBI National Academy in 2008.
“I am not sure we could have found a person that could have been more qualified,” Hinds said.
Hinds said he likes that Stearns is not shy, but is also not a “bragger.” Hinds added that Stearns has “worked himself through the ranks” and will fit with the culture of the university.
The job posting for director of public safety, which was opened Oct. 3, required a “proven ability to develop, implement and communicate complex, campus-wide safety and security plans and interventions.”
Hinds said Stearns has experience in being out in public and wants to be engaged with the community.
“I gave him a charge of being out on campus …showing people you give a damn,” Hinds said.
A growing campus, police department
Stearns will earn $130,000 per year, according to Tiffany Capuano, a spokes-person for KSU.
The last chief of police, Ted Cochran, who retired earlier this fall after 30 years of service with KSU, earned an annual salary of $120,855, she said.
Capuano said Stearns will oversee 73 employees, including 34 who are Georgia POST-certified police officers. The officers patrol the campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
KSU’s Department of Public Safety has a budget for this fiscal year of more than $4 million dollars, Capuano said. The department has responded to 266 emergency calls this year.
“We have all the latest bells and whistles,” Hinds said.
KSU is the third-largest university in Georgia with a student population of more than 24,600.
Since Hinds joined the university in 1998, he said the campus has been under constant construction.
Now KSU will be adding a football program in the fall of 2015 and consolidating with Southern Polytechnic State University by January 2015.
“With the direction that Kennesaw State University is going in, and with the consolidation of the two campuses, this is a great opportunity to be part of something very positive,” Stearns said.
Hinds said the combined campuses will be under the charge of Stearns, and would most likely integrate current SPSU officers, pushing the department to 100 or 110 employees.
The focus of KSU’s police force should be on firearms training and situational exercises for cases of on-campus shooters, Hinds said.
Hinds said he tells KSU officers their job is different than being on the Cobb County police force, because they are dealing with young adults who are going to act like college students.