Police chief recalls moment he chose police work

April 14, 2011 Feature Print Print
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Police Chief Jim Fitzpatrick

College Police Chief Jim Fitzpatrick said he knows exactly when he decided to become a police officer.

It was the summer of 1972. Fitzpatrick had come to Oklahoma from the Bronx in New York City to pursue a degree in Liberal Arts from St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee.

It was there he stumbled onto a summer internship with the Oklahoma City Police Department while looking for a job that he might be interested in.

Fitzpatrick was riding with a police officer when they were called to a gruesome triple homicide involving a convenience store clerk, her husband and their young son. They were all shot and killed execution-style in the store’s back room.

The killers escaped with $50.

Fitzpatrick said this was the defining moment that sparked his commitment to a field he has worked in for almost 40 years.

After 37 years with the Oklahoma Police Department, Fitzpatrick said, it was time to retire, so he did in 2010.

He wasn’t looking for a job when a friend told him about the vacancy at OCCC.

Fitzpatrick said he came to the campus, sat in the commons area and just watched the students and the daily life of the college.

He sent in his application before Thanksgiving break and was hired in December.

Fitzpatrick is a family man who has two daughters. He knows that a career in law enforcement can be stressful for a family.

He recalled one traffic stop on Christmas Eve involving a drunk driver who acted like he was going to pull a gun. For a few tense moments, Fitzpatrick said, he didn’t know if he was going to have to engage the man or not.

This was one instance, Fitzpatrick said, when he didn’t know if he was going to make it home to his family that night.

Security Officer Jacob Roby commented on the new leader.

“I am excited to work for a person who has veteran status like Chief Fitzpatrick has,” Roby said.

“I am in support of the transition to a police department and look forward to what it will do for the campus., he said.

Since coming to OCCC in December, Fitzpatrick has started to transition the Safety and Security Department to a full-fledged police department. With this change come new responsibilities but also more opportunities.

“Having a police force will lead to better certification and better trained officers,” said the chief. “Having police officers will open up funding options from more federal funds such as Homeland Security.”

He has set the goals he would like to meet in a year, he said

“I would like to have at least six sworn officers on staff and be operating smoothly with positive feedback from the campus staff and students.”

Fitzpatrick said the department is getting closer to that end. The process for establishing CLEET recognition is almost complete.

“Complete transition of all personnel to police officers will take some time,” he said.

In the time Fitzpatrick has been on campus, he said, he has increased weapons training and the number of days officers spend at the gun range so another accidental gun discharge is less likely to happen on campus.

Most important, Fitzpatrick said, OCCC’s police department could receive national recognition which would open up more doors to grant funding for law enforcement purposes and better pay for officers.

Fitzpatrick says that should equal a safer campus for students.

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