Rusty Keyes has worked almost 30 years to get to the position he’ll take over starting July 1.
Keyes, who currently serves as Assistant Chief of Police at the University of Southern Mississippi Police Department, was announced as the incoming chief during a news conference Wednesday at Bond Hall on the Southern Miss campus. Keyes will take over for current Police Chief Bob Hopkins, who will retire effective July 31.
“It’s an honor,” Keyes said. “You always work to be the best police officer. To be able to lead an agency, and lead men and women as they rise through the ranks of law enforcement and serve this community, it’s just an honor.”
Keyes began the police academy in 1990 and served at Hattiesburg Police Department for more than 16 years before joining the university police in 2006. At USM, he was named founding director of a cold case homicide unit and worked his way to assistant chief.
As far as plans for his upcoming stint as chief, Keyes plans to continue the foundation laid by Hopkins over the last several years.
“Chief Hopkins has developed a department that I would consider one of the best in the nation, and one of the best in Mississippi, and I just want to continue that,” he said. “We provide a service here at USM that we call ‘community caretaking’ – we take our community seriously and we want to protect them, serve them and make a healthy learning environment here.
“So I just want to continue the good work that Chief Hopkins started, and even make us better.”
Hopkins, who has served in law enforcement for 41 years, started with Hattiesburg Police Department in 1980 before coming to Southern Miss.
“It’s time for me to look at a new direction in my life, and spend some time with my wife, family and grandkids,” he said. “It was a good time, and UDP is in a good place right now.
“I was happy to see that they chose internally to appoint Chief Keyes to my position; I think he’s going to work out well for the university. He knows the university, he’s a product of the university, and he has many years of relationships with it, both when he was with HPD and when he was a student there. So there will be a lot of consistency, because he knows what the key issues are and knows how to deal with them.”
Hopkins’ retirement from Southern Miss will actually be his second, as he retired from HPD in 2000 shortly before coming to campus.
“So this time, I’m lucky enough not to have to work if I don’t want to,” he said. “Right now, I’m in the ‘don’t want to’ stage of work, so I plan on just reconnecting with my family, do some charity work and keep in touch with the university to help them any way that I can. Other than that, I’m just going to take it easy.”