The new chief of the Department of Public Safety at the Medical University of South Carolina wants to continue the process of adjusting the makeup of his team to better reflect the people that the department serves.
“We’ve had a pretty good first step under the previous chief, and I’d like it to be more representative of this community that we serve here. So we would want people from all walks of life,” Chief Patrick Kelly said.
Kelly, who succeeds Chief Kevin Kerley, knows what it’s like to work with people from all walks of life. He’s a former Bronx policeman who patrolled public housing developments with a diverse team of co-workers.
Kelly has also worked at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, which attracts students from across the country, before coming to MUSC in 2009. There, on the downtown Charleston campus, he was happy to find himself in a melting pot of visitors, students, staff and faculty members from a range of backgrounds and, in some cases, other countries.
Kelly thrived at MUSC, rising through the ranks of the Department of Public Safety. Now that he’s chief, Kelly has two key initiatives in mind as he works to further diversify the department.
First, Kelly wants to increase the number of women. “It’s what they call the 30×30 initiative. We pledge to increase our population to 30% women by the year 2030. That’s the goal. Not just as officers, but all ranks, so we’re looking to do that,” Kelly said.
He’s started moving toward that goal by recruiting female applicants through the job search site Indeed, encouraging them to consider MUSC as an alternative to traditional law enforcement. “I’ve worked with some amazing women in my career, and I’d like to see more of them here.”
One of those women, Public Safety officer Mira Frazier, would like to see more female colleagues at MUSC, too. She thinks when more women realize what campus policing involves, they’ll give it a closer look. Frazier highlighted the ways that it’s different from regular law enforcement.
“We don’t do high speed chases, shootouts and stuff. You don’t have to worry about taking work home, going to court all the time, things like that. And you get to go home to your family in one piece without worrying about somebody trying to shoot at you or trying to run you over,” Frazier said.
Public Safety employees are also treated with respect, not only for their work but their personal lives, too, Frazier said. She thinks that will appeal to women as well. “The biggest thing I enjoy about working here at Public Safety is that they’re family oriented. All the stress and the headache you would have to deal with at a traditional law enforcement, you don’t have to deal with that here.”
Kelly’s second plan to increase the pool of people his department can draw from involves creating a pipeline to bring in high school students to learn about public safety work.
“We want to try to get the young population interested in a career in law enforcement. And I think coming here to MUSC is a good first step for them. So if we can create a program and give the young people an opportunity to check it out, they may consider us. Not, just let’s say, Charleston P.D. or Mount Pleasant P.D. but us as well,” Kelly said.
He’s working with DaNine Fleming, Ed.D., associate chief officer for inclusive excellence at MUSC, to get the program up and running. She thinks it holds a lot of promise.
“It would be a matter of a partnership between our police, our officers and Burke High School and introducing them to the profession of law enforcement and our officers through a pathway type of program,” Fleming said.
That pathway might also help change perceptions, Fleming said. Law enforcement agencies across the country have struggled for years to attract people who are racial minorities and members of other underrepresented groups.
“Folks believe what they see on the news versus what may be true, and this pipeline would give them early exposure to law enforcement in a different area. It is larger than the students for me. What about the parents? What about the siblings? What about all of the other people? Exposure to this type of program can provide a pathway to the profession because their child can be on campus engaged in an immersive experience,” Fleming said.
Pathway to service
Those young people would be learning about a department that prides itself on a customer service approach to helping people on campus. The previous chief’s motto, “Let’s help someone today,” is still a guiding statement for Kelly and his team.
There have been many examples of how they put that into practice. In 2021, Kelly, then a lieutenant, talked a man threatening to kill himself into going to the hospital to get mental health help.
But not all examples are that dramatic. For example, Kelly and his colleagues have helped people whose cars have broken down. They also work with MUSC employees who need the team’s help with logistics to get their work done and more.
The department already helps people from all walks of life. Now, Kelly said it will begin to better reflect them as well.
He’s proud of the work the Department of Public Safety has done so far. Maybe, as it diversifies, it can help other departments consider new ways to help the communities they serve. At least that’s what Kelly is hoping for.
“I would like to make us a benchmark, not just for campus law enforcement, but law enforcement within the Lowcountry. Just bring that professionalism and knowing that we are customer service oriented, and we provide the best service.”