By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer
As the newest chief of Baylor Police Department, John Kolinek said he aims to better diversify the department, promote engagement with students and build personal relationships between students and officers in order to foster trust.
On June 1, Kolinek was sworn in as chief after serving as the assistant chief since 2016. He succeeded Brad Wigtil, who retired in May following a six-year stint as chief.
A Waco native, Kolinek brings over 30 years of leadership and law enforcement experience to his new position. He spent 25 years with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office in a variety of roles before coming over to BUPD in 2015.
In his first two months as chief, Kolinek said he has been evaluating the department to see areas where BUPD can be better. One of those areas is diversification, which Kolinek said is high among his goals.
“That’s really my main focus right now, to get to a place where I can say that our department reflects our student body, because I think that makes us better as a police department,” Kolinek said.
Kolinek also said he wants BUPD to focus on engaging the student body in positive ways in order to build personal relationships between students and officers. Kolinek said he believes relationship building is important so students can “learn about the officer outside the uniform.”
“If we ever have to deal with any of our students from an area where there’s a problem or an issue, we will hopefully have the opportunity to establish that relationship that will benefit all of us as we work through whatever issue is impacting us,” Kolinek said.
Kolinek said BUPD would be identifying and reaching out to some student groups on campus. He said he hopes to have a chance to talk to student groups in order to build relationships to better work through issues and gain the trust of the student body.
The final tenet Kolinek said he plans to operate by is transparency. Kolinek said body cameras have been worn by BUPD officers since July 2020 and the department will be transparent in all things, regardless of the situation.
“Right, wrong or indifferent,” Kolinek said, “the community demands that law enforcement be transparent.”
Kolinek’s reputation precedes him as both Wigtil and President Linda Livingstone have credited Kolinek as being a driving force behind “progressive changes” within the department. In 2018, BUPD received accreditation from the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, which Kolinek said is the gold standard for campus law enforcement accreditation.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara also had high praise for Kolinek. During his time with the sheriff’s office, Kolinek filled many roles, often in positions of leadership. He oversaw all jail operations for the county, which, according to McNamara, is the hardest job in the sheriff’s office.
“He did a magnificent job of running the jail,” McNamara said. “The county jail is one of the least of my problems here, and it’s because of the way it’s run now and the way that John Kolinek ran it when I came in.”
McNamara described Kolinek as a very good leader and said he is glad Kolinek is in the position.
“I think John is a very honest person. He has a lot of integrity,” McNamara said. “He’s a very dedicated person. He takes his job very seriously. I think he’s going to do a magnificent job.”