People often come to the university down different roads and by different means. Criminal investigations officer John Ellison is no different.
Before coming to UMHB, Ellison was a firefighter and owned a painting company on the side.
While working on a project for the university, he learned the campus police department had a part-time position open. He has now been a campus officer for six years.
“I think everything is kind of planned out, and we have a path we’re following,” Ellison said. “I think I was put here for the right reasons, and it’s been great. It’s been fun, and, hopefully, it doesn’t stop anytime soon.”
As a Temple firefighter, Ellison was sent through the police academy to become a certified arson investigator.
This had Ellison well on his way to working in law enforcement, and those years spent fighting fires helped prepare him for his job at the police department.
“As a fireman and a cop, at times you’re seeing people at their worst,” Ellison said. “You’re dealing with college age students that are trying to make their way. I think coming from the fire department having that mindset of wanting to help people plays perfectly into our role here at the university.”
Getting to see the university grow is one of the favorite parts of his job.
“It’s exciting for me now that I’ve been here. I’ve seen people come in as freshmen and then graduate and move on,” he said. “Even if we have to deal with somebody as a freshman that got into a little bit of trouble, to see them find Christ while they’re here and learn that ‘hey I can be a good citizen’ is awesome. You get to see people grow up, and that’s a good, rewarding aspect.”
A person who was influential in bringing Ellison and the rest of the current campus force together is Police Chief Gary Sargent. He has been chief for 14 years.
Sargent graduated from the police academy in 1981, and after working his way through the ranks at Baylor University, he came to UMHB because he “had to find a football team that could win,” he said, laughing.
“I felt it was an opportunity to really have a positive impact on a university culture,” Sargent said. “I really came in at almost the rebirthing of the police department, and I recognized the opportunity to have a major impact in shaping and building an organization that was responsive to the needs of our community.”
When he was first hired as chief, the department was in a transitioning stage. Sargent helped it evolve into its current role on campus by bringing in officers with varied experience.
“(Now) we’re better equipped. We’re better trained; that just goes back to the university’s desire to maintain a safe campus,” he said. “We look for a diversity of backgrounds when we hire officers coming into the organization because we think that makes us better.”
One of the newest members of the department is Officer Ricky Revis who worked for the Waco Police Department for 17 years. Revis understands the department’s goal in dealing with students.
“We don’t want to hammer students. We want them to be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “The university cares about students and wants to see them excel,” he said.
Sargent reenforces that idea.
“We have (the) opportunity in this environment to be very engaged in the life of the university and the lives of our students. We’re very proactive in our crime prevention efforts, so we keep crime relatively low on campus.”
Despite the changes, Sargent asserts that the ideas of the university and the police force remain the same.
He said, “The thing I like about it, though, is that although our capacity size and infrastructure has changed, the basic mission of the university has remained very consistent and very purposeful about what they’re trying to accomplish and do.”