As IPFW’s first female police chief prepares for her first year at the Fort Wayne campus, she is bringing with her a wealth of knowledge, extensive resume and can-do attitude.
Julie Yunker is overseeing a staff of 16, including 14 police officers and two administrative employees, and 7 police cars with 24/7 coverage.
Hailing from Michigan, Yunker began her training as a member of the United States Air Force right out of high school.
Recalling her first meeting with the recruiter, she said she had no real direction of what type of job she wanted to take. Well, that was until her dad chimed in.
“A lot of time opportunities present themselves even though you are not necessarily seeking them out. I knew I wanted to go into the Air Force, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I took my parents with me to the recruiter’s office. As we are talking to the recruiter asking what are some job offerings, my dad, who never says much, speaks up and says, ‘She’s really good at French. Do you have anything in French?’ And the recruiter says, ‘I think there’s something about linguist in here.’ So he flips through his book, and there it was, Cryptologist Linguist Specialist. I had to take a special test and then I just fell into it,” she said.
From there she served as a linguist and translator in the Air Force for four years. She said that's where she learned the value of being a communicator.
After college she worked at the Kalamazoo Police Department where she had a chance to do everything from SWAT Team negotiator to working narcotics, where she spent five years.
A big lesson for Yunker was also an unexpected one. She was assigned as a high school community resource officer.
“That really helped me see that police departments really operate within a community, because it’s easy to get caught in responding to call for service or fighting crime, but then you realize when you get involved in others aspects of the community, such as a school, that’s when you really start to think that there are really other people that care what we do as police officers. That was really important,” she said.
After she left the Kalamazoo Police Department, the next few years were spent as the academy director at Grand Valley State University.
Now she is taking her skills to the campus at IPFW, which begins fall semester classes today. After a rigorous two-days interview process, she got the job, and said coming to Fort Wayne is almost like coming home.
“I found this job by accident and Fort Wayne, for me - as a Sturgis, Mich., native - so it’s always been the big city to visit. I always remember coming to concerts and the mall (here) so for me it was almost like I was coming home. I give credit to this university because the search committee and interview on campus was phenomenal,” she said.
When she came to the university, she has a few goals in mind. Three goals, in fact:
The first goal, obviously, is the safety and security of the staff and students on campus.
The second goal, and “true mission,” is the health, welfare and well-being of the people who work at the police department.
Lastly, she hopes to collaborate with other departments and organizations on campus and off.
For example, she said, there’s a co-op for high school students where they can travel to an off-site career center and study criminal justice or law enforcement. So to her, the department needs to connect with that high school program not only to develop a relationship, but to show the students the value of IPFW.
While finding the perfect balance of time for achieving the goals, she not only expects the best out of her team but she holds high expectations for herself.
As a Michigan certified officer, some certifications did not transfer. So even though she is not required as an administrator to be completely certified as a typical officer, Yunker is training for certification on all levels by choice. That involves traveling to Plainfield, Ind., a few days for everything from traffic stop to firearm training for certification.
“The better you get at your job, the more you love your job and hopefully we all love our jobs if we (the staff) don’t already. I have never not loved the job I was doing. I used to detassel corn, and I thought, wow did I really love corn detasseling, and yes, I did. It was messy. It was wet. It was hard work. It was hot, but I really loved that. And you think that how lucky is it that you can love, in some way, every job that you’ve done. That’s having opportunities that you can create yourself that are blessings,” she said.
As far as being IPFW's first female police chief, she doesn't think too much about it. She just works to do the best job she can, and create the safest environment for the campus.