MURRAY – Jeff Gentry has been Murray State University’s interim chief of police since the beginning of the summer, and with the start of the new year, he can now remove the “interim” part of that title.
Jackie Dudley, vice president of finance and administrative services, sent out a campus-wide email on Tuesday that said, “As we begin 2021, we look forward to positive changes and initiatives for the spring semester. One of those being the permanent appointment of the Murray State University chief of police.
“I am happy to announce that Mr. Jeff Gentry has been appointed the Chief of Police/Director of Public Safety and Emergency Management effective Jan. 1, 2021. Jeff has served as the interim chief of police since June 2020. This is a vitally important position as we continually work to maintain a safe and secure campus for the benefit of our students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and the larger community.”
Gentry is originally from Dawson Springs and he said he started his career in public service as a firefighter for the Murray Fire Department in the 1990s. He worked there for five years before the opportunity came up to work for the Calloway County Sheriff’s Office. He worked there for nearly another five years before he got a job at the Murray Police Department. After a year at MPD, he began working at the Murray State Police Department. He now becomes chief 20 years into his service to the university.
“Jeff strives to be a collaborative, empowering leader and plans to build upon the police department’s community policing by continuing to actively engage with students, parents, faculty and staff at MSU,” Dudley said in the email. “Jeff has served as president of the Kentucky Association of University Law Enforcement Administrators for the past three years (elected by his peers). He is a graduate of the Department of Criminal Justice Executive Development Program in Richmond, Kentucky. In addition, he has served on several civic organizations including the Murray-Calloway County Park Board and the Calloway County Library Board.
“Please join me in congratulating Jeff on this appointment!”
“I have had the opportunity to work with Jeff for many years and there is no one better prepared for this position,” said Murray State President Bob Jackson. “He is a hardworking and well-respected leader on our campus and in our community and while he serves as our chief of police, he wears many other hats as he works with students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni as an ambassador for MSU.”
Gentry said he is a big proponent of the concept of “community-oriented policing,” which for a campus chief means keeping a rapport with students and the rest of the university community.
“I definitely want to be really involved with our students, our parents, our faculty and staff,” he said. “Community-oriented policing is very, very big (for me). It was hard in 2020 because the pandemic crippled us a little bit as far as not being able to interact with the students as much. We had a lot of gatherings and meetings that couldn’t be face-to-face, and we had to Zoom. It’s hard for people to not be able to see your face and to see you in person and know how you really do feel about them.
“That’s one thing I try to tell all the students and parents: I want to build relationships and I want them to know that their child, wherever they’re coming from, is truly loved and cared for. That’s what I want to definitely instill in the officers, and we’ve got a good group of officers that understand that. I want students coming here to know they can feel safe and that they are cared about.”
Gentry said he had known Jackson and Dudley the entire time he had been working for Murray State, and he enjoys working alongside them and other university leaders.
“It’s an honor to be selected as police chief, and I also have to say I have a lot of gratitude and appreciation for the administration for their support and their encouragement throughout my career at Murray State,” he said. “It’s been outstanding.”
Gentry said he sees his role as one of service, adding, “It’s not about me. I’m here to serve – to serve our officers and the university community. That’s my job. I still believe in policing, and I think it’s one of the best professions out there and it’s rewarding. I just couldn’t imagine myself being anywhere else but Murray State University.”
Gentry said he was also very touched by the outpouring of well-wishes he has heard since the news of his hiring became public.
“I’m so ecstatic right now and overwhelmed, in a good way, with all the support people have shown me in the last couple of days,” he said.