Texas A&M University Police Chief J. Michael Ragan celebrated his 40th anniversary at the department last month.
Over the course of his law enforcement career, Ragan has seen a number of changes at the department, including growth and the use of technology.
But, he says, it’s always been a good fit, and the department is where he was meant to be.
“I look back on it and think that this is where the Lord wanted me to be,” he said recently.
Ragan, a native of Richmond in Fort Bend County, attended the University of St. Thomas in Houston before transferring to Texas A&M to study business.
He graduated from Texas A&M in 1983 with a degree in economics, but his true passion sprouted from a job he took at the university’s police department while still a student to help fund his education.
He had prior experience with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy, he said, but it was his time at UPD that made him recognize his love for police work.
Within 18 months of joining the department, Ragan said, he was promoted to sergeant. After four years on the job, he became a captain.
Ragan, who was promoted to the role of chief in October 2013, oversees about 180 department employees.
Ragan said he remained at the department during those early years, in part, because of the opportunity to rise through the ranks. He felt a sense of loyalty to the department and its leadership team, he said, and he loved College Station and the campus.
Over Ragan’s career, Texas A&M’s student population has nearly doubled and the campus has evolved with it.
Ragan recalled purchasing an early model Apple computer and taking it to work.
“I was the person, on my own, who brought the personal computer to UPD,” he said.
Ragan — a graduate of the 141st session of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia — is credited with developing the department’s first website and advancing its use of social media.
With the introduction of the Facebook social media site on college campuses, Ragan said, UPD became a resource for other departments because of its access to the site.
Ragan said that’s one example of how a university police force stays ahead of the curve with popular trends in law enforcement because of the age of the campus community.
“I like the fact that working at a university, you have to keep an open mind and be fresh and willing to adapt,” he said. “And I think that’s what I like about working at UPD.”
The 1999 Aggie Bonfire collapse was the most significant event of his career, Ragan said.
“It affected everybody on campus. It was so sad. I know when we had the memorial a couple of days afterwards, you couldn’t help but be very emotional,” he said.
He said he remembers telling his classmates as a young recruit in an entry-level police training course that he wanted to be a chief some day. The longer he worked for UPD, he said, the more he realized that really was the job for him.
“Being chief is about looking at the entire department and making sure things are being done properly, making sure things are budgeted right,” he said.
The 63-year-old says he knows retirement will be coming, but he’s not ready to call it a career just yet.
“I really love Texas A&M ... and I have really been blessed,” he said.
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