Rock Island Police Chief Scott Harris will become the public safety director at Western Illinois University starting Nov. 5, he said Monday.
“Everybody likes a challenge,” Harris said. “I’ve got over 30 years in Rock Island. It’s time to start a new chapter in my life and career.”
Harris has been the Rock Island police chief since May 2010. Previously, he was the deputy chief from 2009-2010 and had served as captain from 2003-2009. Harris joined the Rock Island Police Department in 1982 as a police officer.
Rock Island City Manager Thomas Thomas will name a temporary replacement, Harris said.
Harris said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to lead security at his alma mater. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Western.
He’s looking for a house in the Macomb area, which is about 70 miles south of Rock Island, and said he’s sad to leave the Quad-Cities and the police department.
“We were on a roll,” he said. “This department is energized.”
Harris was in the process of helping his department achieve accreditation through the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program.
He said that despite receiving numerous awards over his law enforcement career, including once being named citizen of the year, Harris is most proud of the changing philosophy of the department.
“We’re not just thinking of crime in numbers, we’re seeing victims,” he said. “We get it. We’re moving in the right direction.”
He added that crime has dropped each year since 2010.
Western notified Harris about his new job last week, and Harris informed the city manager Friday ahead of Western’s announcement Monday, he said.
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“Scott’s many years of experience in law enforcement, his knowledge of community policing and his familiarity with a college campus law enforcement division through his department’s association with Augustana College will further enhance Western’s already outstanding public safety program,” Julie DeWees, Western Illinois vice president for administrative services, said in the announcement.
The director of public safety serves as the chief law enforcement officer for the campus, DeWees said. The director provides leadership and oversight for ensuring a safe and secure environment and develops effective working relationships with individuals and organizations both on- and off-campus.
Harris said he was in Macomb as one of four finalists for the job on Sept. 19 when he was informed that a woman had been run over and killed on a residential street in Rock Island. The victim was identified as 43-year-old Sandra Tate of Rock Island. Police charged Jeremy C. Graves, 25, of Davenport with first-degree murder in her death.
Harris said he couldn’t fall asleep that night before his interview with Western knowing a woman had died and a homicide investigation was under way.
“People don’t understand that when we take the uniform off, we still carry the job with us,” Harris said. “It’s because we care.”