Police chief John McAvoy.
Photography by B.J. McCardle.

Shepherd Welcomes New Police Chief John McAvoy

Moving to Shepherdstown from New York City might not be the move of choice for some native New Yorkers, but it is a welcome change for newly hired Police Chief John McAvoy.

Shepherd students can rest assured that McAvoy arrives to his new permanent position with all those years of experience, honed on the busy streets of New York City, ready and able to better protect and serve students, staff and faculty of Shepherd University.

McAvoy’s experiences ranges from collegiate policing to criminal investigations. He now manages Shepherd’s safety and security with all his prior learning and law enforcement experience to help him improve campus safety and the welfare of our entire community. His most recent position as the Assistant Director of Campus Safety at Herkimer County Community College in Herkimer N.Y., only solidified his dedication to improve the lives of college students.

McAvoy’s was tested almost immediately upon arrival in Shepherdstown. One of his first Shepherd cases was the hate crime that occurred on December 3, 2012 just two days after his arrival. This trial-by-fire had the new chief immediately involved in a detailed criminal investigation, all while attempting to settle into a new position with a new staff in a new town.

McAvoy picked Shepherdstown specifically as a great place to raise a young child and he called the crime “un-Shepherd-like” and out of character from what he knew about the university and community. He stated that one reason he picked Shepherd was due to its “impression of being a diverse liberal arts university that welcomes everyone without any reservations about gender, sexual orientation or race.”

Those he interviewed during the investigat thought the crime was very unusual and did not reflect the typical Shepherd mentality, student body, faculty, and staff. His faith in the welcoming and accepting attitude of Shepherd remained unshaken, if not solidified in the campus-wide negative reactions to the crime.

McAvoy has a strong dedication to family, including the Shepherd family. He arrived in Shepherdstown with his wife and young son, who motivate him to protect the children of other parents who happen to grace our campus. McAvoy also has three grown children and a grandchild back in New York City.

After raising his three children, he and his wife adopted a little boy from Ethiopia who joins them here in Shepherdstown due to a large Ethiopian community presence in Frederick, Md. He and his wife felt that the best thing to do for their young son would be to locate him closely to others of Ethiopian descent and ensure that he never loses his cultural heritage and ties to his own unique ancestry.

Students, faculty and staff can rely on the same protective and nurturing nature that he delivers to his own family and son in his daily interactions and duties at Shepherd. His desire to make Shepherd the safest campus possible is reflected in his most important message to his new campus, which is his firm belief that “safety is everyone’s responsibility, and all Shepherd students should take common sense measures to ensure their own safety.”

Chief McAvoy, and his staff, can be contacted in the police department offices located in room 105 Sara Cree Hall, or at extension 5374. Emergencies should be directed to Shepherd Police dispatch by calling 9-911.

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