Kelle Kennemer just began her tenure as Austin College’s new director of Public Safety on January 6. She’s sitting behind her desk, ready for me to interview her before she heads off to several meetings.
“Hi, Alex. I’m Chief Kennemer. It’s nice to meet you.”
She extends her right hand and smiles, the latter which she hasn’t ceased doing since returning to her former workplace.
“I’ve come back home,” says Chief Kennemer. From 2002 to 2009, she worked with the Austin College Police Department (ACPD). “I never felt that I wanted to leave, but I felt stagnant. I never had a lot of time for training to help the officers.”
Thus, then-ACPD member Kennemer went to Collin College in McKinney, where she “…had so much training. And this is why I wanted to return to Austin College–so I could give back the training I had acquired at Collin.”
Applying her training experiences from Collin College to how she trains the ACPD force stands as one of her reasons for returning to AC. But what about her goals regarding security at AC and also for her department?
“First, I want to assure that students feel confident. I want them to know the officers, that they’re there for them, and that they’re approachable.” She especially plans to make herself known to students and wants students to get to know her to the point that they’ll “…call me by my name.”
Regarding security, Chief Kennemer plans to improve lighting by receiving input from her officers on locations they think are in critical need of additional lighting; these places particularly include potential theft and assault areas.
Concerning her goals for her department, she reveals the need for better body cameras and body vests and wishes to upgrade the radio system so that it has a stronger connection with the radios in the ACPD office.
Prior to our interview, I read ACPD’s mission statement, which Chief Kennemer wants to edit in the future:
Our mission is to promote an environment of safety and security for the educational process at Austin College.
To achieve this mission, with a continuing commitment to excellence, we will:
Respect and safeguard the dignity and rights of all individuals.
Provide police services to protect persons and property, and maintain order.
Maintain a well-trained, proactive, professional work force.
Take pride in all we do.
Our daily objective is to work in partnership with the community and provide the highest quality of professional police services.
My next question concerns the third bullet point. What will she do to train officers?
She explains that all police officers in Texas must receive their TCOLE–Texas Commission on Law Enforcement–certification. “TCOLE is proper training to keep officers active. It offers different classes as training allows, such as deescalation. Many of our officers go through online police training.” TCOLE also ensures officers are properly trained to handle weapons, such as AR-15s.
Finally, I ask Chief Kennemer about security cameras. She tells me she is meeting with a security camera company the morning after our interview, who will offer advice on where AC should install cameras. She finishes expressing the need for security cameras by simply stating, “Welcome to the twenty-first century!”
Chief Kennemer believes this added security, along with better lighting, should exist where a presence is needed. But until Austin College installs security cameras, our new chief plans to patrol the campus some nights and receive more insight from her department on ways to enhance security at Austin College.
Before we conclude our interview, Chief Kennemer expresses appreciation for how faculty and students have welcomed her “with open arms…Here, Austin College is more personal.”
Thought of another way…there’s no place like home to Chief Kennemer.
And finally, she returns home.