The new chief of the Utah State University Police Department will be Michael Kuehn.
The search process to find the ideal candidate was nothing short of extensive.
Steve Jenson, USU’s director of housing, who chaired the search committee, said over 50 applicants submitted resumes. Of those 50, 10 were interviewed. The 10 were narrowed down to six, of which three were publicly announced and brought to the university to present proposals in a sort of public hearing.
Kuehn was not one of the original three applicants who presented at USU — which included Tyson Budge (of the Logan City Police Department), Jeff Young and Klay Peterson — who presented nearly a month ago.
“They all had a lot of strengths,” Jenson said. “We were very well-served with the people that applied.”
But university officials were unable to come to a decision following the initial three presentations.
“The committee felt like it was wise to at least interview one more individual,” Jenson said.
So, Kuehn was brought in. He presented his resume to a small public gathering on Monday, describing his career and the approach he’d take as chief of the USU Police Department — but not before apologizing that his master’s degree is from Brigham Young University.
In addition to his master’s in public administration, Kuehn spent chunks of his career with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Utah Highway Patrol, and as a security representative for the NBA’s Development League.
Dave Cowley, USU’s vice president of business and finance, was one of the administrators tasked with making the final hiring decision based on recommendations from Jenson’s search committee.
He said he felt Kuehn had the “best breadth of experience of the other candidates” and that he thought Kuehn would take a service-oriented approach to the job, which he felt was important.
“At a university it’s not quite as much about enforcement as it is about service,” Cowley said.
Kuehn cited respect and compassion as some of the qualities he hoped to inspire as leader of the USU Police Department.
“The person I admire most is the officer who goes out of their way to assist someone who is truly downtrodden or otherwise in need,” he said.
He said he thought police officers should be held to a high standard — something he planned to do as USU’s police chief.
“Anybody who has the ability to take someone’s freedom away ought to be held a cut above,” Kuehn said.
Kuehn also described a “passion” for emergency management — another reason Cowley said he thought Kuehn was the best man for the job.
“I’m not a trained risk manager, I just worked in a high-risk environment for a long time,” Kuehn said.
When asked whether he thought the USU Police Department’s 10 active officers and six reserve officers were enough to account for its roughly 16,000 students, Kuehn said he thought hiring more officers was probably a logical step to accommodate a growing university, but that he understood budget constraints might make that difficult.
He will take over the position from interim chief Steve Milne on March 1.
Photo courtesy of Utah State University