MURRAY —  City of Murray Police Chief Jeff Liles has always been a strong advocate for something he refers to as “community policing.”

This is a concept that has become more prevalent in recent years for law enforcement as a whole at a national level. The idea is that officers need to become more involved with the communities they serve, particularly when it comes to activities involving youth, as a way of getting to know officers in settings other than when they have had to respond because of something negative.

Murray Police Department Officer Alyssa Finnegan seems to exemplify this idea. Not only does she perform her duties on the city’s streets, but she is also managing to keep her love of the game volleyball alive as the head coach of the nearby Marshall County High School program.

“Now, I don’t get a whole lot of sleep,” Finnegan said with a laugh a few weeks ago after her Lady Marshals won the 4th District Tournament by defeating Christian Fellowship at Taylor Gym on the Murray High campus. She coached that match, then changed into her MPD uniform and hit the streets for a shift that started at 9 that night and continued through 5 the next morning.

“It’s the best of both worlds, though. I’m extremely blessed. I have every opportunity in the world here every day, plus it seems like it’s a new thing every day, but it’s fun. I’m doing the job I love and I’m also able to still be involved with the sport I love.”

Finnegan was hired at Marshall in the summer after she served three years as an assistant at Murray High. However, even though she now coaches at Marshall, she is very familiar with players from the Murray area as she also has led a club team for a few years that is based out of Mayfield.

The 4th District Tournament was, pretty much, a reunion with many of those players.

“I do coach a lot of Murray High and Calloway (County) girls with that team in the off season and it’s good to be able to see those girls and encourage them, even though I’m not coaching their high school teams.”

Liles said he is 100% in support of Finnegan’s coaching pursuits. Also, he said that while Finnegan may be directly helping young people in a community other than Murray, he said this is still a big deal to the department.

“Community policing is exactly what she is doing,” Liles said this week. “This is for the Murray Police Department as a whole. It doesn’t matter where the team is that she is coaching, she is still representing the Murray Police Department.

“I’m so proud of her and what she is doing. She is a bright light for all of us.”

Liles also said that Finnegan is very respected within the department. An officer for three years in Murray, she has ascended within the department to become one of its training officers. 

“She’s been very consistent and she has stepped up in leadership for us,” Liles said. “She also carries herself very well. She doesn’t have to do a lot of yelling and screaming, but she also knows that you have to explain the reason for doing something and that’s how I’m sure she is with her team.”

“Yeah, that’s kind of how it is ... I know I need to stay calm,” Finnegan said of her coaching style with the Lady Marshals, which seemed to work pretty well in her debut season in Draffenville. The Lady Marshals were 21-6 and reached the semifinals of the Region 1 Tournament before being defeated by host Ballard Memorial in LaCenter. “I can’t afford to get my anger out like that. I had anger issues while I was playing.”

Finnegan was a standout at Murray State University from 2012-16 and was a main weapon for Head Coach David Schwepker’s teams that won two Ohio Valley Conference championships during that time. Known as Alyssa Lelm in those days, she played alongside newly-inducted Racer Hall of Famer Scottie Ingram and was a force at the net, thanks to her leaping ability.

“She was awesome, just unbelievable to coach,” Schwepker recalled of Finnegan. “Now, I thought that, coming into our program (after a standout high school career in her native  Illinois), she was going to be one of those wild and crazy girls that I’d have to calm down, but she wasn’t ever like that. In her four years, in fact, she never got into a bit of trouble. 

“She just came to practice, worked her butt off and left and she was a great teammate to everybody ... just an amazing person.”

However, Schwepker said he finds a bit of humor in the profession his former player has chosen for her “day job,” even though she does most of her work in the middle of most nights.

“What I really find kind of funny about her is, when I see her  around town in her cop uniform, she’s got all this stuff on her (a protective jacket, weapons belt, etc.) and I know that, underneath all of that, is a skinny girl  that can touch 10-foot-plus,” the  Murray State coach said. “I mean, that girl could fly. She was the exact prototype of the player that I look for ... a girl that can jump, who can hit the ball and is really fast.”

Schwepker also said that he is not surprised that Finnegan has started so successfully at Marshall. He said his teams did not host too many youth camps when she was a player for the Racers in those days, but he could tell she had the right demeanor for dealing with young people.

“She was very approachable and very level-headed and calm, so I think everybody, including kids, would be very comfortable around her,” he said, adding that he did get the chance to see Finnegan and the Lady Marshals play this year. “It was when they played CFS. I couldn’t stick around very long because my team had practice that night and I had to get back to them, but I thought she handled her team really well and she was just like she was as a player here. She wasn’t going nuts on the kids and screaming at them, and we talked about that some (after she took the Marshall job during the summer).”

“I’m lucky,” Finnegan said of her first head coaching job. “I was blessed with a great group of girls, so I didn’t really have to change anything once I got there.”

There is also one more thing  that must be included for the Finnegan story —her hat. During matches, she wears what has quickly become her trademark, a baseball cap in the school colors of orange and blue.

“I’ve always worn hats, for some reason. That’s been my thing from Day 1 and it works pretty well for me,” she said.