Not only does a law enforcement pedigree run in W.P. Chedester’s family, he’s the third generation of his family to work in the police department at West Virginia University (WVU) located in Morgantown, a small city in north-central West Virginia. Born and raised in Morgantown, Chedester graduated from Fairmont State University in Fairmont, West Virginia, with a degree in criminal justice.
He started his career in the WVU Police Department in 2002 as a patrol officer and then worked his way up the ranks. After serving as interim chief of police in 2017, Chedester was named Chief of Police and Director of Emergency Management in 2018. “I was very fortunate to work with the former chief, Bob Roberts, when I served as deputy chief under him,” says Chedester. “His guidance and knowledge helped prepare me for the job.”
Since then, Chedester has been overseeing the police department on the main WVU campus in Morgantown with a team of 59 sworn police officers, 19 communications officers, four support staff and anywhere from 12 to 15 student cadets. With the support and leadership of the division captain, he also oversees the daily operation of the emergency management division, which is part of the police department.
WVU’s divisional campuses in Keyser and Beckley, West Virginia, also have WVU police detachments with eight to 10 officers at each location and operate semi-independently, with an assistant director/campus chief running the daily operations. “Each campus department works in conjunction with the overall mission of WVU and works well to support each other when anything is needed,” Chedester says.
The best part of Chedester’s job is “the people that I work with and get to serve on a daily basis. I grew up seeing what a wonderful and professional police department and university this is,” he says. “WVU has always been a place that treats you like family and being a part of the Mountaineer family was a lifelong goal that I had. I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity of a career at WVU.”
Major events like concerts and basketball and football games create unique challenges for Chedester’s team. “With crowds ranging from 14,000 to more than 60,000 people in attendance, it can be challenging to manage,” he says. “WVU and the other police agencies in the area – the Morgantown Police Department, Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office, West Virginia State Police, Granville Police Department and Star City Police Department – work well together and partner not only during large-scale events, but also daily to keep the university community and the surrounding area safe. We have a very supportive and skilled administrative team at WVU, which makes working and managing the police department much more efficient and enjoyable.”
Chedester’s team provides a variety of training and educational opportunities for both the university and the community, such as “Shots Fired,” Flashpoint, “Stop the Bleed,” self-defense, de-escalation, driver and pedestrian safety classes and general safety awareness classes. “Some of the programs we host or participate in are ‘Coffee With a Cop,’ ‘Shop With a Cop,’ ‘Touch-A-Truck’ and ‘Trunk or Treat,’ a Halloween program for the local community,” Chedester says.
One of the most difficult parts of the job is due to the university community changing year to year. “At the beginning of every school year, we see an influx of new students – around 5,000 – and every five years or so, the bulk of our 30,000 plus student body is different than the previous five years,” says Chedester. “This change in our community is one reason we put so much emphasis on community policing, outreach and education. Every year we add a new group of students to the Mountaineer family and it’s an immense responsibility. Our department’s number one goal is to keep the community safe, secure and informed.”
In Chedester’s view, the WVU Police Department has a good reputation throughout the community and with its peers. Because of the department’s heavy emphasis on community police, outreach, prevention and cooperation, “I think this has led to a reduction in crime and a closer and more open relationship with our community members and our peer agencies in the area and across the state,” Chedester says. “Our education and outreach programs are perceived very well. We normally use community input such as surveys, questionnaires and personal interactions to develop and incorporate programs and training opportunities. We believe that this helps keep our programs up to date and relevant to the university’s and community’s needs.”
In his leisure time, Chedester is a fan of outdoor activities like hunting, conservation, fishing and hiking. He also enjoys golfing, reading and shooting sporting clays. “I live on a small farm and enjoy spending time there and relaxing,” he says. “It’s my small sanctuary of sorts, and it’s very peaceful.”