Ohio State University police chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt talks with students in the Ohio Union on Thursday. Credit | @OhioStateAP

Kimberly Spears-McNatt has been part of the Ohio State community since she first stepped on campus as a freshman in 1989.

“I was you. I was a student here. I lived in Canfield Hall. I do understand what it’s like to walk across the Oval,” Spears-McNatt said.

On Thursday, Spears-McNatt sat at table in a quiet corner of the Ohio Union, taking time out of her schedule for the sole purpose of meeting any student who stopped to talk, smiling at everyone who walked by.

That’s because she’s Ohio State’s new interim police chief, and her ambition is not only to keep campus safe, but to let the student body know she’s approachable.

During her time as police chief, Spears-McNatt hopes to build bridges between the student body and the Ohio State University Police Division.

In addition to increasing interaction with students, she hopes the community will grow more familiar with the police department and is aware that her and her colleagues are there to help.

“I want the university community to know our whole entire police department,” Spears-McNatt said. “That is one of my goals, to make sure that not only they get to know me as a chief, but all our resources.”

As well as improving relations between the students and the police department, Spears-McNatt also will prioritize keeping the community safe through education and simple safety tips. She reminds students to use the buddy system, to trust their gut instincts and if they see something, say something. Spears-McNatt also runs the university’s Rape Aggression Defense program, a series of classes designed to give women resources to protect themselves against rape.

“Wherever you’re walking, just be conscious of your surroundings. Don’t be distracted…these are the next best four, five years of your life, being here, and we want you to be safe and enjoy it,” Spears-McNatt said.

Spears-McNatt’s ambitious work ethic and extensive commitment to the community has not gone unnoticed by those around her since she began her service as interim chief on June 12, when former chief Craig Stone accepted a position at the University of Illinois.

“Kimberly has more than two decades of law enforcement experience. We are very fortunate to have someone with her work ethic and knowledge of the university to guide us through this transition,” said Monica Moll, director of public safety. “As an Ohio State graduate, she brings a unique perspective and understands the needs of our students.”