UPDATE (OCT. 21, 2021 5:08 p.m.):
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University has chosen its new Chief of Police, Sherry St. Clair, the first-ever female in the role.
St. Clair has 27 years of experience working in public safety on the Morgantown campus. She will start her new role as chief of the WVU Police this week.
“First off, I’m going to take the first couple of months and try to talk to my people and see what the problems are,” St. Clair said. “And, I’ll talk to other community people, other departments in the university and just see what’s going on. And then, look to see what kind of changes I need. I need to gather information first.”
St. Clair said she was “surprised” and “honored” to have been selected for the position and she is “excited” to get to work.
“My passion for the department, WVU and the Morgantown community runs deep, and I look forward to leading University Police,” St. Clair said. “I’ve served in several roles in this department, always with an eye on keeping our students, faculty, staff and the entire campus community safe and engaged in safe activities.”
St. Clair was selected following an extensive national search to fill the position.
A diverse hiring committee, including representatives from across WVU, WVU Public Safety Advisory Committee and the broader Morgantown community, reviewed more than 50 candidates before selecting St. Clair.
“I’ve had the honor to meet with her, and I can tell she cares about students and wants us to thrive here, and also feel safe and secure while we’re on campus,” said Amaya Jernigan, president of the WVU Student Government Association who participated in the selection process. “My past experiences and contacts with her have been positive, and I look forward to working with her in her new role.”
St. Clair joined the department as an officer in 1994 while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Fairmont State University. She completed training at the West Virginia State Police Academy in 1995.
Since then, she has taken on various roles including several supervisory positions. And in 2018, she was named University Police’s first female captain. St. Clair has completed several training and certification programs during her tenure at WVU, including the nationally recognized Police Executive Development program through Pennsylvania State University earlier this year.
“Not only does Sherry have significant experience and expertise in law enforcement in a higher education setting, she also is highly regarded among students, faculty, staff and her University Police colleagues for her leadership, positive attitude and service to WVU and the broader Morgantown community,” said Phil Scott, who has acted as interim chief since January and will continue to serve University Police.
St. Clair is a member of the WVU CARE Team, a cross-functional team that helps at-risk students access the support and assistance at the university. St. Clair also is a member of the WVU Public Safety Advisory Committee, the Monongalia County Sexual Assault Response Team and the WVU Pedestrian Safety Committee, among other groups.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to promote campus safety and continued engagement between officers and students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the community,” St. Clair said.
One of the new initiatives St. Clair wants to instate is having officers in residence halls.
She said the idea of university police in dorms is not new and proved successful when it was previously in effect. Once her department is fully staffed, she said she hopes to bring back the policy.
“Because it’s their own little community,” St. Clair said. “They get to learn an officer, they’re there every night and they feel comfortable with that officer, so I’d like to really, try to bring that back in.”
All of this goes hand in hand with St. Clair’s plan to make her department more accessible and community-oriented.
“We’re looking to really change our culture in the department,” St. Clair said. “We want to get back out in the community more, do more community relations stuff, community policing stuff. We want the public to be able to come up and talk to us and get to know us and we get to know the public, so I think that’s a big thing that I want to try to accomplish with our department.”
For more photos and information, visit WVU Today.