Ken Gullett helps keep Southeast Missouri State University students, campus safe

Monday, August 30, 2010
Sgt. Ken Gullett has served with Southeast Missouri State University's Department of Public Safety for 22 years. (Laura Simon)

Portageville, Mo., native Ken Gullett has spent hundreds of hours inside and outside the classrooms at Southeast Missouri State University. Most of those hours have been in a police uniform, serving and protecting the campus community. Gullett, now a sergeant with the Southeast Department of Public Safety, is a 1991 graduate of the SEMO Regional Police Academy and began as a police officer in 1992. Before his graduation, Gullett was a security officer for the campus bookstore and residence halls.

Question: What's your current role in the department?

Answer: I'm a sergeant and I'm assigned to the parking services unit where I oversee 40 student workers who go out and write tickets. I also supervise special events, so if we have anything at the Show Me Center, Houck, anything on campus, I usually get the staff and supervise them. I've been doing that aspect of the job, supervising events, for a number of years. I'd safely say about 10 years I've been doing that.

Q: What's kept you at Southeast all these years?

A: I'm the type that if I enjoy the job ... I'm going to stay. As in any job, you do get aggravated at situations or circumstances, but all in all the university has been a wonderful place to work. Our job as university officers are completely different from municipal or any other law enforcement [job] because we have a little more ownership. Our current administration promotes a community policing style of approach and that works well on a college campus, because you're dealing with 18- to 24-year-olds who this, for most of them, is the first time they're away from home. Whether we want to admit it or not the faculty and staff of the institution serve as surrogate parents. Over time you understand some of them are still kids and you do get to sort of watch them grow up and become adults.

Q: What else makes a campus police agency different from other law enforcement?

A: University policing is a little different from municipal or being on a sheriff's department because we are an institution of higher learning, and we are part of the educational process. We try to instill in students when we come across them -- either in positive or negative situations -- that there are consequences to your actions, but we are here to help. I can't tell you about all the times I've done foot patrols and come across a student who ... was homesick. They're crying on a bench somewhere and I'd take the time to talk to them and find out what the story was. A lot of times they're just having difficulty at home or some sort of financial struggle. And that's basically part of the job of being a campus police officer. No matter what campus you're on, it's been my opinion that you're here to be of that type of service.

Q: Tell me more about the special event coverage the department provides. How do you keep organized?

A: We support the athletic program as far as we provide five officers to basketball and football games and during baseball season we'll have an officer assigned to Capaha Park. For the other sports we have officers that do extra patrols, but with basketball and football mainly is where we're needed because that usually is a larger crowd. We're just there to assist the athletic program and their staff in handling situations. At Houck Stadium we work closely with them, and at the Show Me Center we're there to support the athletic program and the Show Me Center staff. We just try to keep an open communication line.

Q: You've worked a lot of first weeks of school. How was this year's first week?

A: This has been the best first week in 22 years. No. 1, we have not had any major construction on campus. We were building a residence hall one year. We were renovating Towers and they redid their parking lot. It created some challenges, but I think our department and the office of residence life, we got through them. With move-in day, the challenges I was prepared to deal with this year, it was really organized.


Pertinent Address:

1401 N. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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