There's a new face in charge at the Shepherd University Police Department. At the end of Sara Cree Hall, a brightly lit office awaits. Surrounded by many certificates of accomplishment and an NYPD duffle bag to his side, a neatly dressed man with boyishly grayed hair and glasses sits at his well kept desk. Shepherd's new Chief of Police, John P. McAvoy shuffles through a few documents and proceeds to greet his fellow employees with a warm smile.
McAvoy seems to be settling in well at the university as his distinct education and experience has led him to the right place. Although the job is demanding and can be stressful, he is very grateful.
"I really enjoy the job. Being able to actively apply over 30 years of law enforcement experience and education is pretty rewarding. I like being able to collaborate with others to help solve any issues that may arise on campus," McAvoy said.
McAvoy's main duty as Chief involves managing the day-to-day operations of the University Police Department. It is the same as running any police department with the added responsibility to ensure a safe environment that is conducive to learning. This is being accomplished by creating partnerships on campus, as well as building upon the relationships that already exist between the SUPD and the community. The Chief will also be responsible for the security for commencement, football games and other events that bring large groups of people to campus.
"Overseeing the safety and security of people on the Shepherd University Campus, including students, faculty and staff as well as any visitors, is probably the aspect of the job I take most seriously," McAvoy shared.
Interim Chief Ed Boober worked with McAvoy on his first week as he prepared to take on his duties.
"Chief Boober's insight into the most effective ways to address issues on the Shepherd University campus has already been invaluable. I am also lucky to have three experienced and skilled sergeants who have been able to guide me as I learn the everyday workings of the SUPD. Everyone in the SUPD has been supportive, and I'm grateful to be working with them," McAvoy commented.
McAvoy was born and grew up in Queens, N.Y. and lived there and on Long Island for most of his life. He graduated from Ashford University with a Bachelor's degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Management with honors and distinction. McAvoy also had advanced training through the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and the DEA.
At an early age, McAvoy joined the City of New York Police Department (NYPD) and made Sergeant only four years after he joined. Shortly after that, McAvoy transferred to Narcotics and Investigations, where he spent the rest of his time with NYPD.
"It was never boring. My team and I investigated everything from street-level drug transactions to multi-national drug operations," McAvoy commented.
While working at NYPD, he also worked for a private security and executive protection company. McAvoy supervised and participated in building threat assessment and security details for Shea Stadium and Newark Airport, the U.S. Open and numerous concerts and political conventions as well as event security for MTV. The dignitary protection involved being personal security for celebrities, politicians and diplomats.
When McAvoy retired from the NYPD, he and his wife decided to get out of the city, so they moved to rural upstate New York, where they lived for the past eight years. McAvoy thought he'd get a chance to enjoy retirement; but got bored pretty quickly. He and his wife both found work at a community college.
As the Assistant Director of Campus Safety at Herkimer County Community College in Herkimer, N.Y., McAvoy really enjoyed being able to apply all of the knowledge he gained from the NYPD in a more proactive manner. He also really enjoyed working with college-aged students. When McAvoy finished his degree, he knew it was time to make a career move to a position that utilized both his work experience and education. After doing extensive research, the couple decided on a few areas of the country that they considered relocating to. One of these areas included the Eastern Panhandle and Washington D.C. area.
"We focused on jobs in those areas. We are American History and Civil War enthusiasts, so this area was high on our list. Washington D.C. also has one of the largest Ethiopian populations in the United States, which is very important to our family. When the job posted at Shepherd University, it was a no-brainer to apply. And fortunately they hired me, so we're very happy," the Chief shared.
The couple then moved to Jefferson County. Even though McAvoy will always have a fondness fpr New York, he likes being able to enjoy nature while being able to go to cities.
"I will always love NYC and I enjoyed living in Upstate New York. Where we are now in Jefferson County is sort of the best of both worlds, because we're close enough to big cities, but still far enough away to enjoy nature's beauty. Shepherdstown is actually about the same size as the town we just moved from, but has so much more to offer. That's refreshing," McAvoy said.
The chief's home life is pretty busy. He has a wife, three adult children, and one 7-year-old son who he and his wife adopted from Ethiopia.
"We adopted our son from Ethiopia when he was 4, and he'll be 8 this June. That's why the D.C. area was so attractive to us when I was job-searching. We feel it's important to keep his culture forefront. Not to mention that we love the food and the selection of Ethiopian restaurants is amazing," McAvoy commented.
McAvoy also became a grandfather when his daughter had her first grandchild a little over a year ago. His son-in-law is a also a member of the FDNY. McAvoy's two adult sons are established in their careers in Queens his side of the family still lives in New York.
"My entire family still lives in the NYC area, so we try and take trips as often as possible to visit. My wife is from California, so we try to get out there a couple of times a year to visit family as well. We obviously travel a lot to visit family, but we want to give our son every opportunity to learn new things, so we like to pick a random place to visit on a weekend when we have time," McAvoy said.
Since being Chief comes with a lot of responsibilities, McAvoy doesn't have a normal set of working hours, so free time becomes very fluid. He feels fortunate that his family can cope with it. McAvoy and his family enjoy watching a few TV shows such as "The Amazing Race" when they can sit down as a family. They thoroughly enjoy the show because of its cultural and educational values.
"'The Amazing Race' is our favorite because of the all of the countries and cultures we can learn about. My wife's background is in teaching and the arts, so we try to take in as many plays and musicals that we can with our son," McAvoy commented.
Chief McAvoy also enjoys the restaurants and culture of the Shepherdstown area. He and his family spend many days discovering the Smithsonian Museumand walking around the Antietam Battlefield. They also enjoy going to the Shepherdstown Library.
"One of the first days down here, we took our son to get his library card. They have so much in such a small space, and the people were very welcoming and friendly. We knew we were in the right place. He has settled right into Shepherdstown Elementary like he's always been there. I think we've all settled in quite well," McAvoy shared.