In 1945, three part-time university employees formed the Virginia Tech Police Department under the name Virginia Polytechnic Institute Police Department. Prior to performing law enforcement duties, the three employees (Rutledge, Arrington, and Speed) were employed by the Physical Plant Department. In the late 1940’s to early 1950’s, criminal and suspicious activity was uncommon. The campus consisted of only a few thousand students. During this time, Mr. Harold Speed was the Chief of Police.
Three additional positions were added to the department, increasing the number of employees to six. Because there were no portable radios, calls were dispatched by a red light on the top of Burruss Hall. Officers, while conducting building checks, would look to Burruss Hall to determine if they were needed elsewhere on campus. If the light was shining, the officer would call the security office to get the location of where he was needed. Mr. George Rutledge became Chief of Police in 1958 due to the death of Chief Speed.
In the early 1960’s two additional positions were added to the department, increasing the number of employees to eight. The police department also employed a dispatcher/clerk and a security guard. In 1967, Mr. Ike Nichols was hired as the Director of Security. Mr. Nichols, a retiree from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, brought a number of ideas and suggestions to his position in the department. The department was changed to a security department rather than police. Duties increased as Mr. Nichols implemented the computation of records. Data was compiled, reports were written and statistics were submitted to the FBI. The majority of officers attended the State Police Academy in Richmond, VA. In 1968, three additional employees were hired, bringing the total of sworn employees to eleven.
Unrest and civil disturbances ushered in the 1970’s. During this first year of the decade, eight additional officers were employed with a starting salary of $5,600 annually. The university along with the remainder of the country experienced an upheaval, as buildings were seized and burned. Chief Rutledge was relegated to the position of sergeant in 1970 and Mr. Lyle Williams was employed as Chief of Police. In 1973, four more sworn positions were allocated, increasing the number of officers to twenty-three. During 1974-1976, educational opportunities for officers were realized and three officers attended the FBI National Academy. The university began significant growth by adding an approximately twenty new buildings and student enrollment increased from 5,500 to 15,000. It was during this time that the department was changed back to a full service police department. In 1975, due to a multiple murder in the Town of Blacksburg, the officers were granted permission to carry weapons full time. In 1973, Chief Williams left the department and Mr. Nichols assumed the duties of Chief of Police, as he remained the Director of Security.
In 1980, Director Nichols retired from the department. Mr. Andy Anderson, former Police Captain from the University of Maryland replaced Mr. Nichols as Director of Security. Mr. Anderson left the department in 1982 and was replaced in 1984 by Mr. Ray Lewis, a former Department of Criminal Justice Services field representative. Promotions to lieutenant and sergeant were made and a horse patrol unit was established. The department hired an additional five officers, bringing the total to twenty-eight. The Department moved its office from the Old Security Building to its present location in the Sterrett Facilities Complex. The university experienced its first homicide when a Veterinary Medicine administrator was shot and killed. In 1986, the department investigated the first traffic fatality on campus. In 1989, Director Lewis left the department and was replaced by Mr. Michael Jones. Mr. Jones had served with the Virginia Tech Police Department for several years and had served as interim director on three occasions. Mr. Jones was given the title of Chief of Police.
Under the leadership of Chief Jones, the department continued to grow. Vehicles were added to the fleet, uniforms were changed, a crime prevention unit was established, a bicycle patrol unit was formed and an Emergency Response Team was initiated. In 1995, after much hard work and the printing/distributing of a departmental Directives Manual, the department was granted National Accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. This accomplishment allowed the department to receive national recognition as a full service, professional police department. Seven positions were allocated to the department during this decade for a total of thirty-five sworn officers.
The department greeted year 2000 with no problems and found itself on the leading edge of training and equipment. After Chief Jones’ retirement, Acting Chief John Brotherton led the department in its first reaccreditation endeavor. Virginia Tech Police was granted reaccreditation in March 2001. This award once again proved the department to be a cut above in professional law enforcement. The department also was granted the State and National Chief’s Law Enforcement Challenge Award for two consecutive years. The university conducted a nationwide search for a new chief and in July 2001, Debra C. Duncan, formerly a Patrol Captain from High Point, North Carolina became the Chief of Police. With a vision for community partnerships, the department is underwent a major reorganization which included a specific community outreach unit. The department had forty sworn officers, eight dispatchers, seven security guards, three support personnel, numerous wage employees and four reserve officers. Chief Duncan resigned her position with the Virginia Tech Police Department to be the Chief of Police in Monroe, North Carolina.
Chief Wendell Flinchum, after 22 years of service, was selected to become the next Chief of Police. The department responds to over 20,000 calls for service per year. The university currently has over 26,000 students and is constantly increasing enrollment and campus facilities. In November of 2009, Chief Flinchum led the department in its third reaccreditation endeavor. The department currently has forty-nine sworn officers, ten dispatchers, eight security guards, five support personnel, and numerous wage employees.