Longtime law enforcement officer Bob Hopkins serves as Chief of Police at The University of Southern Mississippi. Recently, Chief Hopkins took a few moments to reflect on his career, current responsibilities and outside interests in a question-and-answer format.
Q:What is your hometown and educational background?
A:I was born in Tyler, Texas and raised in small town outside Dallas named Terrell, Texas. My dad was in the military and moved often during the late 1960s and 70s. I attended my senior year of high school in Yukon, Oklahoma and ended up in Hattiesburg in 1974 after graduation when my dad got a job at USM in the Psychology Department. All of my higher education took place at USM.
Q:Why did you choose law enforcement as a career?
A:That actually started purely by accident. While attending USM I ended up living in Purvis where I met a criminal justice major. He was working full-time at the Purvis (Mississippi) Police Department and asked if I wanted to do some ride-alongs. I changed my major as a result of that and took my first job at the Purvis Police Department in 1978. I really enjoyed the work and started seeing that I had a knack for it.
Q:How many different places have you served in law enforcement?
A: Purvis Police Department from 1978-79; Hattiesburg Police Department from 1980-2000 when I retired and came directly to USM as Chief Investigator under Police Chief Keith Oubre. I was appointed Police Chief in 2001.
Q:What is the toughest part about being the Chief of Police at a major university?
A: Understanding that young adults don’t always make good decisions/choices. Knowing a wrong turn could affect them in their later lives and careers and taking advantage of tools available to us to properly address the issues and learn from them. Actual arrest is a last resort, but it does happen. We would much rather use the campus discipline system than criminal courts. The other big challenge is living up to the expectations of parents who send their children here in providing a service they are happy with.
Q:How does it affect you when one of our students dies?
A:It is always hard to understand the death of a young person. It’s important to recognize the grief and stress this causes for the parents of these students and try to provide them closure. In review we must always look for the causes of these tragedies and make sure we are providing the types of services that might reduce stress and other factors that might contribute to these tragedies.
Q:If you had not chosen law enforcement, what do you think you would be doing?
A:I would most likely choose the education field. Preparing the next generation for the future challenges and being able to share my experiences of success and failure.
Q:How many people do you have working in your department?
A:There are 25 sworn officers, 14 in night security, four full-time civilians that manage dispatch and clerical duties and four part-time student workers in dispatch.
Q:When you’re not at work, how do you like to spend your free time?
A:Camping, yard work and odd jobs around the house. I am kind of a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none.
Q:What’s the best advice you ever received?
A:Be careful what you wish for. If you get it, make sure you are prepared for the task at hand.
Q:Do cops really eat that many donuts?