UM appoints first female police chief

Being the University of Montevallo’s first female police chief is not something Lynda “Shelley” Tyree thinks about often.

She’s too busy overseeing the replacement of all 3,000 locks on campus, revising standard operating procedures or changing a flat tire – just a routine day at the office.

“I really haven’t thought about it … being the first female,” said Tyree, 37, who was appointed on Dec. 3. “My parents never told me I couldn’t do something. They always said, ‘If you want it bad enough, work for it.’”

Tyree, who resides in Calera, succeeds former Police Chief John P. Lee, who passed away last March. She joined the department in 2000, and until recently served as interim police chief.

Tyree never imagined a career in law enforcement. She was poised to become a teacher/coach until she accepted a job as a loss prevention specialist at a Sears department store in Oxford. A then 18-year-old Tyree blended into the shopping crowd and patrolled for shoplifters.

The experience led to an officer position at the Jacksonville State University Police Department, where Tyree first encountered campus law enforcement. She went on to serve as a police officer for the city of Bessemer and an agent/investigator for the Calhoun/Cleburne County District Attorney’s Office.

Tyree decided to return to campus law enforcement because she saw more opportunity for community involvement. She’s implemented several initiatives to heighten police visibility. Among those initiatives are the installation of 13 cameras and four emergency blue phones on campus. In addition, Tyree has established bicycle and student patrol units.

Tyree said she wants the university community — especially the student body — to know their police department is approachable and reliable.

“We want to be here to lend a helping hand when we can,” she said. “It’s not about how many people can we throw in jail today, but how many people can we help today.”

Tyree’s long-term goals include installing key card readers on all academic buildings. Thus far, key card readers have been installed on residence halls, the student activity center and Davis Hall.

Tyree also hopes to boost sign-ups for the university’s mass notification system, SchoolCast. Through the system, students, staff and faculty are immediately alerted of human or natural threats via phone or e-mail.

Tyree said campus policing has dramatically changed over the past decade, citing the Virginia Tech shootings. The massacre prompted campus police departments nationwide to review their emergency response procedures.

The university had its own security scare when a young woman brandished a handgun on campus in October 2007. The incident prompted a campus lockdown, and Tyree retrieved and secured the weapon.

Tyree said the department continues to toughen up security by communicating with the university’s administration, and assessing top security needs.

Though Tyree hasn’t had much time to reflect on her new and significant role, she considers her appointment a privilege.

“It’s an honor to be where I’m at and serve the community,” she said. “But regardless of where I am on the pole, I’m a law enforcement officer.”