History of the University of Southern Mississippi Police Department
The University of Southern Mississippi Police Department began as a one man operation in 1912 when the school first opened as Mississippi Normal College. As was the case for most businesses that employed them, the night watchman was assigned the duties of securing the campus buildings at night and keeping trespassers away. The first person to hold that position was Reverend William Edwin Fail who was a civil war veteran and former Hattiesburg Town Marshal. Fail, along with his wife Sally, lived on campus at the WW I Memorial Building until her death in 1928. It was on that date that Fail resigned his post and shortly after moved to the Beauvoir in Biloxi, MS which was a retirement home for Civil War veterans.
Over the years numerous men were hired to fill the position and the number of night watchmen grew to two. They were responsible for securing the buildings, giving assistance to students living in the dorms and running off anybody who had no business being on the property.
This position was later expanded to employ two night watchmen as the campus grew up until 1953 when Dr. William McCain appointed a retired FBI Agent, John Reiter (1953-1960), to start the Department of Public Safety. By then the school had changed its name twice and was now Mississippi Southern College. This meant not only hiring more people but granting them more authority in the commission of their duties. The director was given the same authority as the chief of police and the officers could detain suspects to hold them for the authorities.
Soon after that Director Percy Nobles (1960-1962) and Patrol Chief Louis Venus (1962-1965) took the reins and expanded both the personnel as well as the equipment used. Uniforms and patches were designed and the duties were increased to more of an enforcement role as both the student body and crime dictated.
This would be carried on in an even bigger way by Security Chief Willie Oubre (1965-1980) who had served as a chief deputy at Forrest County and Mississippi Highway Patrolman. While working as a law man Oubre became familiar with the training aspects of law enforcement and saw the growing need for firearms to be worn on campus. After many debates both on and off campus Oubre was able to arm his officers in early 1975. In addition, Oubre was able to obtain radar for traffic enforcement and a Minolta 35mm camera used for investigations.
For fifteen years the department grew in size to include an assistant chief of police, Thomas M. Hutson, and an investigator. Oubre even put his degree which he had obtained from the college in 1939 to good use by teaching classes on campus.
After Oubre retired the University of Southern Mississippi hired Chief of Police Maxwell Bromley (1980) who was the Assistant Director of the University of South Florida Police Department. He was with USM for six months before returning to USF where he has been ever since.
After Bromley’s departure Chief of Police Howard Miller (1981-1992) was hired to take over the department. During his time he expanded the operations and stream lined the collection of parking fines. In addition, police escorts were made available to female students after dark and the department acquired new vehicles for its patrols.
Miller retired in 1992 and was replaced by Acting Chief of Police, Jim Tullos (1992-1993). Tullos then left to go to work for the Forrest County Sheriff's Office. He died of a heart attack soon thereafter.
Stepping into his father’s shoes, Chief of Police/Director Keith Oubre (1993-1998) was hired soon after the passing of Tullos. The department saw a fresh look to its cars with a new schematic which separated the department from the generic look, new handguns and new uniform and patches.
Oubre was also responsible for spearheading the now closed Mississippi Police Corps Training Academy. This included 16 weeks of intense training and class studies that was superior to that of the basic training academy.
This required balancing duties at both UPD as well as the police corps so in 1998 Oubre left USM to concentrate on the MPC.
While Oubre was the director of USM and Police Corps Chief Cecil Wilson was promote to Chief of Police (1998-2000). During that time Wilson concentrated on community policing and utilized the bicycle patrol to create better community relations. He served for two years before taking over the Department of Parking Management as its director in 2000.
In late 2000 Chief of Police Bob Hopkins (2000-Present) was promoted from his position as lieutenant investigator at UPD. Once again the department saw a change in patrol schematic and uniform. Under Hopkins leadership the department was recognized by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies in 2005 and fully accredited in 2009.
Since its conception, the University of Southern Mississippi Police Department has grown not only in size and experience but it has grown with the changing times to become one of the best trained and equipped police agencies in the region.