SHSU Ph.D. Grad Heads Training for NYPD

Dr. James O'Keefe (SHSU PH.D. 89)

SHSU Alumnus James O’Keefe (Ph.D. ) was recently tapped as a Deputy Commissioner of Training for the New York City Police Department, overseeing education and training for 35,000 sworn officers and 15,000 civilian personnel.

“Given the essential role of the Police Academy and in-service training in the formation of our police officers, we set the highest possible standards when looking for someone to lead these programs,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelley. “James O’Keefe meets every one of our standards and more.”

Dr. O’Keefe earned his Ph.D. degree from Sam Houston State University in 1989 while he was an officer with the Houston Police Department. He credits the College of Criminal Justice and its diverse faculty for changing his way of thinking and counts his Ph.D. degree among the top three milestones of his life, topped by his family and the New York City Police Department.

“The time I spent at Sam Houston State University was life altering,” said Dr. O’Keefe. “I went in as a knucklehead Houston police officer, and it changed the way I viewed the world…On one hand, you think of Huntsville as a small city, but the Criminal Justice Center opened up a global arena…I believe in my heart that it is one of the best, if not the best, Ph.D. programs in the country.”

During his career, Dr. O’Keefe has worked as a practitioner in Houston and New York and as an academician at St. John’s University in New York, but his heart always has been in law enforcement.

“I was always a policing guy,” said O’Keefe. “It was always my interest.”

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly (l) appointed Dr. James O’Keefe as Deputy Commissioner of Training for the New York City Police Department.
Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly (l) appointed Dr. James O’Keefe as Deputy Commissioner of Training for the New York City Police Department.

So when Commissioner Kelley offered him the job as Deputy Commissioner, Dr. O’Keefe jumped at the chance.

It was a good time in my personal life and I was intrigued by the challenge,” Dr. O’Keefe said. “I always admired Commissioner Kelley and there were a couple of things going on. We’re in the process of building and opening a state of the art Police Academy. I also wanted to get back in the game in terms of all this terrorism stuff.”

Dr. O’Keefe will oversee all training for New York City police and civilian personnel, which includes citywide interagency counter terrorism training. He also will usher in a new Police Academy, a $2 billion campus that will include an academic building, an administration building, a state-of-the-art Tactical Training Village with a real subway line running underneath, a firearms training range, a driver’s training track and dormitories. The first phase of the project is expected to open in 2013.

Dr. O’Keefe began his law enforcement career in the Houston Police Department, where he served as a uniformed patrol officer, an undercover officer in the Vice Squad investigating narcotic and child pornography cases, and a special assistant to the Chief of Patrol. He was one of the initial recipients of the 100 Club of Houston Law Enforcement Scholarship and completed his Masters and Ph.D. degrees at SHSU.

“Since obtaining his Ph.D., Dr. O’Keefe has been especially successful at translating theory into real world police strategy,” said Dr. Hoover, one of his mentors at the College of Criminal Justice. “For example, we recently asked him to return to Texas to instruct in SHSU’s Major Cities Police Chiefs’ Seminar Series, providing valuable insight into New York City’s crime reduction programs. He is adept in both worlds.”

Dr. O’Keefe said his education at Sam Houston State University helped him throughout his diverse career.

“As a Deputy Commissioner, I have to think globally and look at the big picture,” Dr. O’Keefe said. “I have to deal with the complexity of the issues. In many ways, the way that you do conventional crime is the way you do it for counterterrorism. You have to understand how it all works.”

After spending 10 years with the Houston Police Department, Dr. O’Keefe returned to New York to become Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the New York City Transit Police. When the agency implemented its first Police Academy, he was promoted to Director of Training, eventually implemented several specialty recruit, in-service and tactical training courses that lead to a nearly 50 percent reduction in crime in the New York City subway system.

When the Transit Police merged with the NYPD and New York Housing Police, Dr. O’Keefe became Director of that consolidated Academy, which earned many honors and awards. He also is credited with establishing a Joint Tactical Training Village for the New York/New Jersey H.I.D.T.A for urban military warfare and NYPD counterterrorism training.

Dr. O’Keefe retired from the NYPD in 2001 to accept a position as associate professor at his alma mater, St. John’s University, where he served as Program Director for Criminal Justice and the Criminal Justice Leadership Program; chairman of the Social Sciences Division; and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. He continued to teach undergraduate and graduate seminars in police administration, public policy, law enforcement ethics and leadership and published many scholarly books and articles, including Protecting the Republic: The Education & Training of American Police Officers.

Dr. O’Keefe continues to be active at Sam Houston State University with the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, where he has provided lectures to Texas law enforcement leaders. Most recently, he spoke on the NYPD CompStat accountability process, which include a multilayered approach to crime reduction, quality of life, and personnel and resource management. He also provided seminars at the Illinois Law Enforcement Training & Standards Board, Executive Institute.

“It was a great conversation on how we implemented the system,” said O’Keefe. In 2000, Dr. O’Keefe received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from SHSU College of Criminal Justice.

“There will always be a special place in my heart for Sam Houston State University,” Dr. O’Keefe said, “It was an amazing experience. I learned so much from the faculty.”

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