Dr. John Schultz Accepts Role as Interim Director of Fairmont State University Police Academy
Students enrolled in criminal justice classes at Fairmont State University may have already met Dr. John Schultz. But plenty of people outside the classroom have also met him. Or at least they’ve heard of him.
Schultz’s popularity became evident soon after arriving at Fairmont State to begin his second career as a criminal justice professor. Within a year of taking on this new teaching position, Schultz was named interim director of Fairmont State University Police Academy. Prior to accepting a position here, he spent his entire career in law enforcement in Florida.
A few years ago, Schultz would have never imagined he’d be living in West Virginia heading up the new police academy.
“My plan was to retire after 30 years as a Florida state trooper,” Schultz said. “I knew I wanted to teach. I’m definitely an extrovert and I’ve always liked talking to people. And talk about criminal justice? I can do that.”
A mentor gave Schultz the information he needed to get started. “He told me the path I needed to take to start teaching at the university level,” Schultz said. “He said get your Ph.D. and get started teaching.”
Schultz began his doctorate program in executive leadership at University of Charleston (West Virginia). Upon completion, he began his search.
“I started to reach out to schools and agencies. I checked Fairmont, liked what I saw, and emailed the dean,” Schultz said. “Dean Kast emailed me right back. And he’s still my boss today.”
In August 2022, Schultz began teaching criminal justice at Fairmont State, and he hasn’t slowed down since. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses including Introduction to Criminal Justice and Policing Operations.
Schultz also has his hands full as the student government faculty advisor, co-advisor to the Alpha Phi Sigma criminal justice honor society, and a policing fellow contributor for the National Policing Institute based in Washington, D.C.
The criminal justice program has long been an important part of the university’s curriculum. But the police academy itself is new.
Some years ago, former Bridgeport Police Chief Jack Clayton began the process to bring an official police academy to Fairmont State. “The police academy at Fairmont State was Jack’s vision a decade ago,” Schultz said.
Clayton’s efforts came to fruition when the inaugural class began training in January 2023. Schultz was asked to be the academy’s assistant director. “It was right in my wheelhouse, so I said yes,” Schultz said.
The last thing he expected was to take the reins of the new venture.
“It happened kind of quickly,” Schultz said. “I was vacationing with my family when I got a call—I was asked if I’d be interested in the director position, and I said yes, of course.”
A decisive mindset has long been Schultz’s M.O. During his 30 years with the Florida Highway Patrol, he received numerous commendations including repeated accolades as Trooper of the Month.
Without missing a beat, Schultz jumped in. As the first group of recruits finished the 16-week program, he accepted the reins as overseer of the program.
As the academy’s new director, Schultz’s message has been consistent. “Community engagement is everything,” he said. “We have to build trust and keep that trust. We have to stay in touch with the community.”
The number of people entering a career in law enforcement has dropped over recent years. “Across the country, law enforcement has taken a hit,” Schultz said. “A lot of people retired and there’s a need to fill those ranks. We need good people.”
Schultz remains focused on the rewards of public service. “I really enjoy helping people,” he said. “I enjoy solving problems. We need good people to step up and do this work—this work has purpose.”
Schultz added, “It’s our job to build that trust, to educate the public about how we can help.”
Today, 27 recruits have just begun their training—the second-ever class for Fairmont State’s Police Academy. “We have people from all over West Virginia,” Schultz said. “They represent 19 agencies—municipalities—from around the state.”
For the trainees, fitness is a top priority. “I hope they like P.T. [physical training], because that’s how they start their day when they get up at 5 a.m.,” Schultz said. “Right now, a lot of their training is also about team building. They’re learning how to be part of team, and that’s so important.”
The options for entering the police academy are varied. Students enrolled in Fairmont State’s four-year law enforcement program may opt for the police academy track, which includes their final semester as academy trainees. This program allows students to graduate at the same time as other students, but upon graduation will be certified as West Virginia law enforcement officers.
“The nice thing about this work is I knew I wanted to mentor the next generation,” Schultz said. “I thought I’d do it in the classroom, but now I’m also doing it at the academy.”
Schultz has no plans to stop learning. His current research includes crisis leadership, emotional intelligence, evidence-based policing and community policing.
Schultz and his wife, Kelly, have begun to settle into their new lives. Their son, Tyler, is a sophomore at University of Florida.
After so many years living in Florida, we wondered if his new life in Fairmont required any big adjustments. “Everyone has been great,” Schultz said. “But these hills and my running… I’ve been a flat-lander for so many years, and I’m still not used to running on these hills.”