Police chief uses 34 years of experience on campus

by Kelly Tumey

News Reporter

He began a law enforcement career for the same reason most of us start a job -- to make money.

However, little did UHPD Chief George Hess know that 34 years later, he would be the highest-ranking official at the University of Houston Police Department and loving it.

Hess said his biggest accomplishment has been creating the Cougar Patrol, a group of UH students who work part-time for the department.

"When I came here, there were no students involved with the department," Hess said. "This program allows students to see what's happening in the department and what we're all about."

UHPD Assistant Chief Frank Cempa said he has worked with Hess for almost 15 years, adding the chief does an outstanding job.

"Hess started the Cougar Patrol and really got students and the community involved with the department," Cempa said. "He's well-respected inside and outside of the police department."

Hess said what he likes best about his job is that it's constantly changing, yet it continues to be challenging.

He added that he knows everyone in his department and is able to work closely with them.

Police personnel do not get lost here the way they might in large police departments, he said.

UHPD Office Coordinator Joanne Nixon said Hess is a very honest and fair person.

"He's strict with his subordinates and sets the same standards for himself. He sets a good example," she said.

With a salary close to $75,000 a year, Hess said he is compensated well for the 50 hours of work he averages each week, not including numerous telephone calls at night and on the weekend from the department.

Hess said he spends his regular working hours in various meetings as well as walking and driving around campus.

Although Hess likes his job, the 55-year-old said there are times when he has to handle bad situations, especially when an officer gets hurt or when he has to arrest someone he knows at UH.

He began his career in law enforcement as a police officer in Kirksville, Mo., because he needed a job and money after his small miniature golf business started losing money in the early 1960s.

Even though becoming a police officer was not his first dream, Hess said he instantly grew to love the profession so much, he returned to his hometown, St. Louis, to join the police department.

He graduated from Northeast Missouri State University in 1969, making him one of the first college graduates in his police department.

Between 1971 and 1977, Hess served as police chief for St. Louis Community College at Meramac, where he was also a part-time criminal justice instructor.

In 1977, Hess moved to Houston to become police chief at UH.

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