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New police chief reports to work

5/6/2002
May 6, 2002

Eric L. Provost Sr. was sworn in as Austin Peay's chief of police and director of public safety on Wednesday, the same day he retired from the Army.

Provost, pronounced pro-vo, brings 20 years experience as a military police officer to the job, as well as stints as a campus security officer and deputy sheriff (in Maryland) and as a police officer (in Kentucky).

After receiving an associate degree in law enforcement, Provost continued his education, earning both his bachelor's and master's degrees in police administration and criminal justice from astern Kentucky University, Richmond, and a master of forensic science degree from George Washington University, Washing D.C.

While in graduate school at Eastern Kentucky University, he was both a graduate teaching assistant and an ROTC cadet. He was commissioned into the Army as a Distinguished Military Graduate in 1982.

His last assignment was at Fort Campbell. "Ellen and I hoped we'd find something that would allow us to retire here," he says, "something I was comfortable with and capable of doing. This was the perfect opportunity."

"Here" was Southside, a small community just across the river, where Provost and his wife have a small horse ranch. "I put down 40 pounds of concrete under a third of a mile of fence posts," he says. "I wasn't anxious to leave."

In addition to offering a perfect fit for someone with his background, the position offered something else Provost found attractive: discounted tuition for the children of employees.

At 18, his son, Ric, will be the first to attend Austin Peay. "He said, 'I can't believe I'm going to school where my dad's the police chief,"' Provost says, doing a perfect impression of a decidedly unthrilled teenager.

"Actually, with some kids it could have been terrible, but he's pretty level-headed."

Ric-like the Provosts' daughters Alison and Hilary, 15 and 13-is currently a student at Montgomery Central High School.

Provost says that because the police chief's position has been vacant for 20 months, he will work to strengthen the organizational structure of the department, which includes 12 commissioned police officers as well as several staff members.

But his major priority will be continuing to provide a safe environment for faculty, students and staff.

Of course, there is the parking problem. "Everyone's interested in parking management," he says. "It's a high priority to this University, so it's a high priority to me."

But, he adds, "It's not something you can fix with a ticket book and a can of spray paint. I'll be looking at the problem strategically."

Although Provost says he's been "writing down questions and taking notes" for six months (he accepted the position last November), he hopes that the University will be patient.

"Any decisions made will involve everyone, and we'll make them in a logical and orderly manner.

"I'm not looking for quick fixes, but for long-term solutions," he says.