Q&A with OSU police chief Leon Jones

Jones getting pinned Chief

Leon Jones (right) receiving his pin and being named the first African-American chief of police at the Oklahoma State University Police Department.

Oklahoma State police chief Leon Jones has become a notable member of the OSU community in his years as chief. The O'Colly recently interviewed Jones to discuss the recent George Floyd killing, Black Lives Matter protests and other topics:

Q: First, how and why did you become Chief and what does your position mean to you?

A: I always set goals for myself ever since I can remember.  When I joined the police department, becoming the chief was a goal and dream.  It’s an honor to serve the Cowboy family and to lead a department of high-quality officers. 

Q: What was your general reaction to the devastating incident regarding George Floyd?

A: The murder of George Floyd sent a very emotional shock wave through me. I was devastated. How can someone sworn to uphold the law and serve his community commit that act? How did the other officers stand by and let it happen? It not only affected me as a Black man, but as a law enforcement officer as well. I had to remember the quality of the officers on the OSUPD and how they put our community first. I am very proud of our officers and have full confidence that something like that would never happen here. 

Q: Does OSU PD feel the need to change/update any of its policies/policing strategies given the current climate? For example, would they consider investing in more public safety officers and de-escalation training or do you feel it is already up to par?

We are constantly evaluating and updating our policies and procedures in order to provide the best service we can to our community. We understand that larger departments like Dallas added a responsibility to intervene after the George Floyd incident, but OSU Police already had the responsibility to intervene policy. In 2018, we added training workshops in diversity and inclusion. Dr. Jason Kirksey, chief diversity officer, provided training to all officers on diversity and recognizing hidden biases. It started the conversation on race — one that can be difficult to have.  

Q: I noticed that the OSU PD website claims that OSU has one of the lowest crime rates in the Big 12. Why do you think this is?

A: I believe our crime rate is low because of our commitment to our community, and the fact that the community stands with us. We have a partnership between the community and the police; we all work together to keep the community safe.  

Q: What would you say to students who struggle to feel safe and protected in our society? In what ways can students, staff, and alumni get involved to help the dialogue between police and their communities? 

A: At the OSU Police Department, we strive for transparency. We want our community members to know what it is we do and why we are here. Times and emotions always change depending on world events whether happy or tragic, so we attempt to stay closely involved with the members of the community.  In this time of unrest, we open our hearts and our minds so that all students can have open dialogues with myself or any member of the police department. We are here to listen so that we can learn and understand how we can help as members of the community.  

As law enforcement officers, we are not here just to provide security and are uphold the law. We must know and learn about our community members so we can know how to approach each situation.  We must get involved so members of the community know they can trust us, and can tell us what they want or need.  Once we know what our community members want, we can work hard to provide the product to the very best of our ability. It all comes down to relationships. 

Q: OSU PD prides its community policing program for providing, “education, safety, and awareness presentations to many groups and organizations.” What does this include? Does it involve any of our Black/POC led groups on campus?

A: Community policing is a key to a successful department. Being a law enforcement officer is not about enforcing the law as much as it is about building relationships and education.  We have a variety of programs designed to show our community how to stay safe. Most of our programs are by request, and we are very happy to provide these services anytime to anyone.  

This year we are rolling out our very first OSU Police Citizens Academy for OSU students, who will receive college credit for attending. This is another way we can be transparent. The students can learn about the rationale and philosophy in law enforcement and will create a dialogue where we can have in-depth conversations with students regarding what they want and need to feel safe and secure.  We use every member of the department to present these programs, so that the community gets to know all officers.