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Last updated: Sun. Jun. 01, 2014 - 07:08 am EDT

IPFW police chief takes over

1st female to be hired for role says student, staff safety is top priority

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Julie A. Yunker

Age: 45

Current job: Director of Criminal Justice Training Center at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan

Previous jobs: 14 years with Kalamazoo Public Safety Department, taught at the Kalamazoo Law Enforcement Training Center, Grand Valley State University and Ferris State University.

Education background: Sturgis High School graduate; served four years in U.S. Air Force; also served in the U.S.Air National Guard; bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and master’s degree in criminal justice administration, both from Ferris State University.

Annual salary at IPFW : $70,000

Julie Yunker today becomes the first woman in IPFW’s history to take the reins at the university’s police department.

When she was a teenager in Sturgis, Michigan, Fort Wayne was the “big city,” Yunker said.

“I remember going to concerts at the Coliseum. … Takaoka’s was the first Japanese restaurant I ever ate at,” she said.

So when she saw a position posted online inviting applicants for the IPFW police chief position, she knew the city would be a good place for her.

“I remember thinking Fort Wayne would be great. I could do Fort Wayne,” she said.

Although there’s no organization that officially tracks the number of female police chiefs on college campuses, the number of female police officers has increased, said Christopher Blake, chief staff officer for the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

“Anecdotally, I can say there are more females getting into the profession compared to 10 or 20 years ago,” Blake said. “And as the number of females in the profession continues to grow, they are moving up into those leadership positions.”

While she’s pleased with being named the first female police chief, Yunker said she hopes she received the position based on her experience and expertise.

“I’m excited that it’s something that will maybe help other (women) who feared trying to reach this position,” Yunker said.

“I’m happy to help pave the way, but my true hope is that it was a decision made on merit alone,” she said.

Yunker will replace Tony Colone, who has served as IPFW’s interim police chief for two years.

Last year, IPFW’s 14 officers responded to or assisted with about 4,080 calls, according to university data.

In 2012, the majority of calls ranged from liquor and drug violations to burglaries and from students locked out of rooms to flat tires, said Stan Davis, IPFW’s interim vice chancellor for financial affairs.

The officers’ main responsibility is responding to calls on campus, but they will occasionally respond to city calls if they are nearby, Davis said.

In July, the Fort Wayne-Allen County 911 call center took over the dispatching duties of the IPFW Police Department as part of the university’s budget cuts.

The merger did not affect the campus police department, although the number of officers decreased by four in a year, officials said.

“We’re going to be about two officers down at the end of the school year, but we wanted to wait for Julie to get here and make the decision on the hiring,” Davis said. “It’s just the right timing.”

Laying a foundation

Yunker graduated from Sturgis High School in 1987 and joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Berlin.

“I happened to get there about six months before the Berlin Wall came down, so I lived through all of the aftermath and stayed two years after that,” Yunker said.

After a four-year enlistment, she returned to Michigan and completed a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Ferris State University. After graduation, she was hired by the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety as a public safety officer.

She worked in Kalamazoo for 14 years, serving as a patrol officer, narcotics investigator, school resource officer, Explorer adviser and SWAT team hostage negotiator.

She also began teaching at Kalamazoo Valley Community College in 1999.

In 2007, she received her master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Ferris State and was promoted to patrol sergeant in the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.

Two years later, she was hired as the director of criminal justice training at Grand Valley State University.

In her previous position, Yunker was responsible for screening potential academy recruits, maintaining a department of instructors for Grand Valley’s Police Academy and conducting the 16-week police academy training session each summer.

She also taught justice and society and criminal investigations classes and was an adviser to the student veterans organization.

“The almost 15 years at Kalamazoo definitely laid a foundation, but those five years I spent at Grand Valley will really help,” she said.

“I learned so much in such a short amount of time. What I learned at Grand Valley can be picked up, packed in a suitcase and brought to Fort Wayne.”

In her spare time, Yunker enjoys spending time in Sturgis with her family, including five nieces and nephews, all between the ages of 8 and 12.

She also likes to ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a passion she said she learned from her dad.

Ensuring safety

Yunker’s No. 1 priority shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, IPFW’s Davis said.

“It’s always about student safety and faculty safety … the safety of everyone on this campus,” he said.

Those concerns are not unfounded.

A little more than a week ago, Elliot Rodger, 22, killed six people and wounded seven others during a shooting in the town of Isla Vista near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

In January, Purdue University student Cody Cousins, 23, fatally shot Andrew Boldt, 21, in the basement of the Electrical Engineering Building. Yunker said she hopes to promote a campus of mutual respect and collaboration to help ensure safety.

“One of the things I’ve learned in my training is that when you have a university that is small enough that it feels close-knit, people are less likely to strike out against each other and more likely to consider other people before they do something that’s going to hurt others,” she said.

Yunker also plans to focus on hiring the right people to be her eyes and ears around campus.

“All of my goals right now have to do with making sure officers have what they need,” she said. “I plan to turn and look upward and see what the university needs from the officer, but for me, it’s always been about seeing what is needed below me before I can help with what is needed above me.”

Yunker’s experience in the private and public sectors should serve her well in running an efficient, effective department, Davis said.

“We were looking for someone who had both private and university experience, and Julie has both,” he said. “Everyone here was very impressed with her.”

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