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Leaders with Ohio State roots to command Ohio State Police Division

Kimberly Spears-McNatt and Tracy Hahn appointed as new chief and deputy chief

The Ohio State University’s new chief of police, Kimberly Spears-McNatt, knows what it’s like to walk across campus as a new student in a new city.

Spears-McNatt grew up in Akron before heading to Ohio State for college. She lived in Canfield Hall, walked to classes, worked on campus and spent time connecting with the community.

“One thing I will always iterate is that I was once a student. So having that experience graduating from OSU, I understand what it’s like to walk across the oval. I understand what it’s like to be in Ohio Union,” she said. “I’ve been there. I’ve walked in their shoes. It’s important for me that [students] feel welcome, that they’re safe and this is the best four or five years of their life. I want them to be able to focus on their education and studying. Let me worry about keeping them safe.”

This week, Spears-McNatt became the 11th police chief in Ohio State history. Her full-time appointment comes six months after taking over as interim chief upon the departure of Craig Stone. In addition, Tracy Hahn, the former police chief of Upper Arlington, has joined the division as deputy chief.

“My personal and professional philosophy is to whom much is given much is required. So I am very humbled by the opportunity to be the chief of police,” Spears-McNatt said. “I realize it is a big responsibility and so I’m excited for the challenge and the opportunity. Not only was I a student here, I also worked here and I get the opportunity to create policy to keep the campus safe and move the agency forward.”

Ohio State Director of Public Safety Monica Moll conducted an extensive search for a new deputy chief in 2016. She found the best option in-house.

“She has all the qualities that I look for in a line level police officer and also in a police leader. She’s in it for the right reasons, she genuinely wants to help people,” Moll said. “She really has no ego at all, just kindness and a service mentality.”

Moll said she first observed the chief’s leadership skills while riding along as Spears-McNatt, then deputy chief, led traffic operations on a Buckeye football game day.

“She was just so kind to everyone we came across. It was just amazing to watch her customer service orientation, her concern about the community. But also all the employees that we came across, you could tell that she really cared about her co-workers and all of our law enforcement partners as she drove around and was checking on them and making sure that they were OK on a long day,” Moll said. “So that was my first interaction with her and I thought, ‘there’s something special about this person.’”

Chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt, Ohio State Police Division
My personal and professional philosophy is to whom much is given much is required. So I am very humbled by the opportunity to be the chief of police.
Chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt, Ohio State Police Division

Spears-McNatt has much more than a deep knowledge of the campus and a history with Ohio State. The new chief has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience and is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police. In her time with Ohio State, she has received several honors, including a Commendation Award and a Medal of Valor.

Spears-McNatt is a graduate of the Police Executive Leadership College. She received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Ohio State and a master’s degree from Franklin University. She is also a graduate of the Certified Law Enforcement Executive program and a member of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

As chief, Spears-McNatt wants to emphasize she is making sure the university’s police division understands the needs of an increasingly diverse campus population.

“One of the things that I am very passionate about, and (President Michael V.) Drake put this in motion several years ago in his 2020 Vision, is the importance of community engagement and diversity and inclusion,” she said.

It’s important that the students, staff and faculty see my officers and interact with my officers. I don’t want my officers to just to show up when something goes wrong. I want them to know us on a first-name basis,” she said.

Spears-McNatt is also a reflection of a diverse campus community. She is Ohio State’s first female police chief and joins Deputy Chief Hahn as a police leadership team of women.

“One thing I will say is that both Kimberly and Tracy were the best candidates out of the pool that we were choosing from,” Moll said. “But it certainly doesn’t hurt that they’re also both women. We’re at a time right now in law enforcement where you’re seeing progressively more women leaders in policing.”

Hahn also has roots at Ohio State. She served as a police officer on campus from 1990 to 1993.

“I have 28 years of law enforcement experience. With that, I have seen pretty much everything that can happen,” Hahn said. “And I think that that will be the thing that I can bring here.”

For Spears-McNatt, each day begins with a sense of responsibility toward her work and the work of others on campus.

“I have a strong work ethic and so I’m dedicated to anything that I do. So I look forward to challenges,” Spears-McNatt said. “So every morning when I drive off the ramp from state Route 315, I realize that there are parents, there are staff and there are students who are here to accomplish goals, to develop dreams and be our next leaders. And I want them to be able to focus on that and let me focus on making sure that they have a safe environment to grow.”