The Oklahoma State University Police Department recently honored Chief Leon Jones’ 25 years of service with the department in December. He’s been with the force longer than anyone else currently serving.
Jones received a plaque in a small ceremony Dec. 19. It will hang in his office, a daily reminder of his major accomplishment.
“It seems like yesterday I was new to the university,” he said. “The plaque reminds me more than two decades have passed and to cherish every day and everyone because time flies.”
In the early 1990s, Jones was working as a loss prevention officer at Walmart, catching shoplifters and handling internal theft. He moved with the company from Texas to Enid and then to Stillwater. He was so accomplished at apprehending shoplifters and installing security cameras that the company sent him to multiple stores to improve loss prevention. He worked with numerous police departments, which piqued his interest. Then Walmart told him he was going to have to transfer to Arizona.
“I had fallen in love with Stillwater and did not want to leave,” he said. “I decided to leave Walmart and pursue a career as a police officer.”
He went to work for OSUPD on Oct. 17, 1994, starting as a patrol officer. He has served in many roles over the years: the first community policing officer, the first bike patrol officer, a lake patrol officer, multijurisdictional gang task force officer, investigator, patrol sergeant, patrol lieutenant, training lieutenant and captain.
He attended the FBI’s National Academy, a 10-week training session that only 3 percent of law enforcement officers in the country are chosen to attend annually. While with OSUPD, he also earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in applied science. Jones took over as chief in August 2017, becoming the first African American to hold the position.
“It is my opinion, that if you’re going to work somewhere, you need to provide your best,” he said. “I wanted to advance my career, so I set goals and did my best to reach my goals. The promotions and opportunities that have been presented to me over the years have made the years fly. It really does not seem like 25 years at all.”
He dreamed of the chief’s job early on.
“I wasn’t completely confident that I could actually make it,” he said. “All I know is that if you don’t try, you’ll never know if you could have.”
Under Jones’ tenure as chief, the department has implemented a Core Campus Patrol Division, assigning officers to the most populated areas of campus, cutting response time down to minutes or even seconds. A second core campus division is planned for the north side of campus. In August, OSUPD in Stillwater joined forces with the OSU-Tulsa force, increasing capacity, opportunities and support for both campuses. In the fall, the department will offer a university class that covers life as a law enforcement officer in depth.
Jones has been there for tragic milestones in OSU history, from the 2001 plane crash that claimed 10 lives associated with Cowboy basketball to the 2015 homecoming parade tragedy. He both witnessed and felt the resilience that overcame such incredible losses, but it’s the small things — the everyday victories — that truly sustain him.
“Each year, I get to witness students who come to OSU fresh out of high school with dreams of graduating,” he said. “I get to see these students grow and watch them as they graduate from college and begin their lives as adults. We as a university are doing what we promised. It helps keep me focused on the goals of a university police officer.”
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