Assistant police chief reflects on FBI experience

University Park, Pa. -- After six months in the nation’s capital, Tyrone Parham is back in his office planning for the day’s concert at the Bryce Jordan Center and preparing for football home games.

Sitting at his desk, he describes his time in Washington D.C. as “eye opening” and looks forward to sharing his newfound knowledge on terrorism and event preparation with his colleagues and the community — not to mention a slew of new contacts from across the country.

“It’s nice to be back,” the assistant University Police chief said with a smile. “It was a great experience. I got to work with the FBI for half a year and I came out understanding a whole new outlook on safety and terrorism.”

The program Parham participated in was the Police Executive Fellowship Program — a prestigious fellowship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that selects management-level law enforcement officials from all over the country to work at FBI headquarters from March to September. Parham was nominated by University Police Chief Steve Shelow, who was briefed about the program by President Graham Spanier. Spanier chairs the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board.

“This is a great honor and I can’t think of a better officer for the job,” Shelow said. “We missed having him here at the office, but I know the experience was worthwhile and will be an immense credit to the force.”

During the majority of the program, Parham worked with the National Joint Terrorism Task Force. He collaborated with several agencies in the intelligence, law enforcement, public safety and homeland security communities.

“Instead of reading it in a newspaper, I was able to see things in an international perspective firsthand,” Parham said. “The FBI oversees and touches base with all the field offices across the country. I would normally just hear about incidents at other U.S. campuses, but with terrorism, we look at things around the world.”

Parham was able to share his proficiency and knowledge of campus police and security with other law enforcement personnel from around the country. He also attended conferences based on topics like campus safety and university investigations. 

Through traveling to these conferences and having access to nearly 50 government agencies, Parham was able to build strong connections and relationships that he felt were especially important.

“You make the world smaller by making connections,” he said. “When you go to a place with all these perspectives, from national to local, you work together, you learn things, and you become smarter and stronger.”

Presently, Parham said several government agencies are focusing on campus safety. He said the relationships between the federal and university levels demonstrate that public safety is a priority. He added that some universities are more communicative with federal agencies than others, but hopes colleges will be more open due to the unique challenges facing university communities.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has been reviewing past college shootings to help improve safety and community communication. Also, the Secret Service has been studying behavior of students and making threat assessments for university use.

“You might not think of the federal government as interested in campus safety,” Parham said. “They are and they are making it a top initiative.”

Now back in State College, and away from the busy metropolis of Washington D.C., Parham has returned to his routine of preparing for football games and the weekend nightlife — but now he looks at his to-do list with “new eyes.”

“Basically, I was an FBI employee for six months,” he said. “I am looking forward to sharing that experience with the people here. I’d like to use that experience to make Penn State safer and better prepared.”

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Last Updated November 18, 2010