With less than a month on the job, new MTSU Police Chief Edwin “Ed” Kaup has been busy making the rounds, getting to know his officers, attending campus events and grabbing lunch at the Student Union when time allows so that students get to know his face.
After 27 years in various leadership, administrative and frontline roles with the Chicago Police Department, Kaup has been chosen to lead the university’s 36 commissioned police officers, six full-time dispatchers, approximately 20 part-time student workers as well full-time administrative staff.
“I love the educational setting. Working for a university allows us to do things that traditional law enforcement can’t,” said the 51-year-old Illinois native, who took the helm of the University Police Department in early August.
“At the university, we realize that a lot of students are on their own for the first time and are going to experiment and occasionally make bad decisions,” he added. “If we can help make that bad decision not mar someone’s life long term, that’s a terrific ability that we have in this setting, that is handling it through the university instead of the criminal justice system. …It gives us a better opportunity to engage with youth.”
That engagement — whether positive or negative — could influence the long-term views about police that students take back in their hometowns or wherever they establish roots once they leave the university, Kaup emphasized. So his general philosophy is simple.
“Be nice. You have to be nice because everyone remembers how you made them feel,” he said. “Policing is the same everywhere, it’s about relationships. I’m very big on community policing, and not as a motto. Everything we do is reliant on the community. I think it’s inherent in policing to reach out and build those bridges with the community.”
Kaup served in numerous leadership roles within Chicago PD, most recently as a captain in charge of a police district. At other points with the department, he oversaw policy and procedure, served in internal affairs, was a homicide detective, a watch commander and a sergeant.
That broad-based background caused him to emerge among candidates during the nationwide search to find a new chief following the spring 2021 retirement of longtime chief Buddy Peaster and the stabilizing 16-month tenure of interim chief Kevin Williams.
“I am excited to have Chief Kaup here at MTSU and ready to get started,” said Alan Thomas, vice president for the Division of Business and Finance, which oversees the police department. “Filling the position has been a long process but the extra time allowed us to get the right person for the department and the university. I look forward to working with the chief on various initiatives for the department and the campus in the coming months.
“I would like to thank Chief Williams for the time and hard work he has put in over the past 16 months,” Thomas said. “He has strengthened the department through recruitment and retention efforts put in place for our police officers. I believe he has built a foundation that will benefit both the department and the university for years to come. His working relationship with the department, officers, staff, and myself was very much appreciated during his tenure.”
While the academic rhythms and serene atmosphere of the Blue Raider campus represents a distinct change of scenery from the hustle and bustle and serious criminal activity within a large metro like Chicago, Kaup said he believes the many lessons learned during those almost three decades in a variety of command positions have equipped him with the skills to forge the relationships necessary to be successful here.
“I think it’s my experience in building bridges within the community with other agencies,” he said. “Every time you transfer, you’re starting over, building relationships with the community and with other officers. My ability to build and maintain relationships with everybody has prepared me as the right person for this position.
“I’ve worked in so many different communities with major problems — some with violence and poverty and some that were very diverse and affluent. The diversity of the city of Chicago has broadened my experience.”
Kaup said in researching the MTSU Police Department as he considered applying for the position, he heard nothing but “positive” things about the department. Since his arrival, he’s been working to meet with every officer “and listen to their concerns as well as get to know them personally.”
They will get to know him as well. Kaup and his wife of 21 years, Kim, are raising two teenagers — daughter, Madison, 19, a sophomore at the University of South Carolina, and son Christopher, 16, a junior at Siegel High School in Murfreesboro.
“My job is to make the university safer, but also to make sure that my officers are safe,” he said. “Our job is to protect the university, the students, faculty, staff and visitors.
He pledges to be visible on campus.
“You’ll see me around campus,” he said. “In order to do community policing, you have to be a part of the community. I’m both humbled and honored to get this position.”
— Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)