HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) – One of the youngest active police chiefs in the country has started his tenure, leading the Huntington University Police Department.
29-year-old Keirsh Cochran was hired on at Huntington University in mid-November. He told WANE 15 that it is believed he is the youngest serving chief in the United States.
“It’s incredibly humbling to be a 29-year-old chief of police,” Cochran said. “It just doesn’t happen.”
Cochran, a 2013 Huntington graduate, has a staff of 17 officers, who protect the campus, students and staff. He was presented the school’s 2019 Young Alumnus Award just a month before being hired on as chief.
“We are so pleased to have Keirsh as our chief of campus police,” Dr. Ron Coffey, vice president for student life said in a statement. “His experience as a Fort Wayne police officer and his philosophy of ‘community’ police work made him a great choice for H.U. Also, as an alum of H.U., Keirsh has a great understanding of the University and its constituents.”
Cochran worked as an officer with the Fort Wayne Police Department for four years, spending much of the time in the south-central part of the city. He was raised in a household with a history law enforcement officers, including his father who serves as chief for the Franklin, Indiana department.
Chief Keirsh Cochran said it is rare to see someone so young in a leadership position, adding that one of his officers was working on campus when Cochran was just nine years old.
“I’m not really supervising him, what I’m doing is learning from him,” Cochran explained. “I can’t pretend that I have more experience. My job is to come in here, know my natural skill set, my talents, gifts and abilities and then adapt that. I’m learning from [the older officers] as much as I’m managing them, probably more than I’m managing them.”
WANE 15 followed Chief Cochran for an afternoon while he was on duty, seeing him help change a student’s a flat tire, help retrieve keys locked in another student’s vehicle and pass out treats to students studying in a dorm… the same building he lived in when he studied at the school. He says he’s a believer in community-oriented policing strategies.
“My door is always open and my phone is always on,” Cochran added. “I don’t have the luxury of being on campus 24 hours a day, like a student does. I think the best resource I have is the student body. They’re the ones that are going to see the holes in campus safety. If we can build that community partnership where a student sees something, they call me and we can proactively respond to it before it becomes a problem.”
One of Cochran’s top passions is racial reconciliation and finding how relationships between law enforcement and those who feel marginalized can be repaired. He started a blog earlier this year on the topic.
“Although Huntington the city on paper is not the most multicultural city in northeast Indiana, the campus is incredibly multicultural,” Cochran said. “What I’m excited to do is to let people know that regardless of what we’re told, we don’t have to decide between supporting our law enforcement, and pursuing racial reconciliation.”
In addition to serving as police chief for the university, Chief Cochran will be a professor of criminal justice. He has started to lay out his plans for both academic and practical instruction.
“To teach the next generation of Christian police officers and Christian secret service officers and Christian probation officers… I’m so unbelievably excited to do that,” Cochran added. “It takes a lot to sign up to be a police officer, there’s no easy time to sign up to be a police officer and there are students coming in who are saying ‘I want to serve my community.’ I owe it to them to build a criminal justice program that sets them up for success.”