After former director of the university police department Mike McCracken announced his retirement in March, it was up in the air about his replacement. Monday, June 18, the new director, Stu Hite, started in McCracken’s position, though this is not his first time with the Pitt State police department.
Hite is a 1991 Pitt State graduate who first realized his love of law enforcement while attending classes at PSU. Early in his career as a student, he began as a dispatcher for the department and quickly realized he never wanted to leave the police.
“I got to meet a lot of city officers and county officers who would come to meet our officers,” Hite said. “I worked the evening shift. They were always coming by to spread news. Before email, that’s how we would share concerns, somebody they were looking for or something. Much before electronic notifications and things like that, they did it the old fashioned way by stopping and talking to somebody and passing out information off that way … So, by doing that, and passing some of the evenings that were long when school was in session, you would get to recognize and make associations to people’s numbers and names with faces. Just listening to the calls that they were being sent to, it just seemed like such a cool thing. That’s exactly where I got my first inclination that that’s what I wanted to do as a career, because of my university police and my student dispatching experience.”
After discovering his passion, his school life was suddenly taken over by police work. There was one person in his life, however, who did not initially approve of his change in life plans.
“It took me a little longer to get through my studies because I was so enamored with law enforcement that I got hired and got a chance to go to the police academy,” Hite said. “So my studies at Pitt State took a back seat at that point because I thought my calling was to go into law enforcement. It was because of my mother who said ‘that’s great if you want to try this law enforcement thing, but you’re absolutely going back to finish your degree. You’re too close to not have it.’ There’s some irony in that because had I not had dear old mom pushing me to do that I wouldn’t have been able to apply for this very position. One of the pre-requisites was to have at least a degree to apply. Back in the 1990s when she was arguing with me to finish I just kept thinking ‘oh whatever, you’re just a mom,’ but moms know best, so I went on to complete my studies and here we are now.”
Since then, he has spent many years on the force working investigations and other fields. This switch back to the university life, though, was a welcome and easy change for him.
“I’ve taken pride in being in law enforcement for thirty years, making and meeting contacts both in people I’ve worked with, people I’ve helped, prosecutors, judges, and just professional business contacts,” Hite said. “I feel like that’s helped me be qualified for this position. I honestly had to give it very little thought. When the position came open, I thought, ‘that would be great for me.’ I thought I would be a really good fit with my ties to the community and my ties to the university. It was my honor to really get to apply for it and get appointed as the new director of university police.”
Those also in the University Police Department were delighted with the new addition. Both officers and student workers in the UPD were shocked to see McCracken go but are also excited for the change, including Sarah Colyer, student worker and junior in communication. She has grown up with family in the police department and said she is excited to see a somewhat familiar face around the office.
“I was surprised when I found out that Mike was retiring,” Colyer said. “When I found out that Stu was the new director, both of my parents have know him for a long time and spoke highly of him, so I was excited. Although he hasn’t been here for long, I already really like him as a boss and am looking forward to see what changes will come along and am excited to work with him.”
Stepping into the new role, Hite has some changes he plans to bring to the plate along with some adjustment for himself.
“Automatically, I’m already seeing differences,” Hite said. “For the past 24 years, a majority of my work was criminal investigations. You have to be able to evolve. This is with any profession, but with any part of law enforcement you have to roll with the punches. You may get up one morning thinking, ‘OK, I’m going to be able to work on this, this, and this,’ and something happens overnight or something happens on your way to work and you suddenly have to change. I still see that as being a part of this role, maybe not quite as much, but I’m seeing a lot of administrative meetings that I wasn’t as much a part of before and it wasn’t a part of my daily tasks. Obviously, there are decisions that have to be made by not only myself, but other parts of administration on campus. You know, those behind the scene things that maybe as a line officer or a criminal investigator you don’t see happen. You know what happens, but you really don’t know what is involved to get from point A to point B. Now I’m seeing the behind the scenes part of that. That’s taken some getting used to and I’m sure it will be for the foreseeable future.”
Hite has many goals in his new position, one of the first being increased visual representation of the security on campus.
“One thing I would like to see us go to would be body worn cameras for all the officers,” Hite said. “I think, in law enforcement, that’s not just a luxury anymore. I think the public almost expects there to be video footage of an event that happened whether it be a car stop, an arrest, or an encounter with someone that’s been having problems. I think it’s almost an expectation from the public for that video to be there. There are pluses and minuses with that, but I think the pluses far outweigh any concerns with that video. When I say concerns, it’s not concerns about having the video. From an administrative perspective, it’s what do you do with it, how do you store it, how long do you store it, what do you store, how quickly can you purge it, and things like that. So those are all things I have to go in behind the scenes. It’s not just something that I can give to the officers and say, ‘here wear these’, there are a lot of concerns that go on behind the scenes. But yeah, I’d like to see all of our officers have body worn cameras.”
Other goals include increasing general security around campus and a continued visual communal presence of his officers and himself around campus. Above all, Hite wants the students to be his main priority.
“I would like the students, either present or future that are coming on campus this fall, to know that the Pittsburg State university police and parking services are here for you, for your safety, to enhance your experience at Pittsburg State,” Hite said. “And I hope that you look to us and at us as more than just the men and women that write tickets to you, and try to enforce things, maybe decisions or parking choices that you shouldn’t have made. I want you to look at us for more than just a place to come get your parking permits and pay your tickets. We are much more than that, we are a full service law enforcement organizations. We’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re here to provide whatever assistance we can while you’re here at Pitt State.”