Q&A: Get to know CMU Police Chief Larry Klaus

Klaus is wrapping up his first month as CMU's chief of police

Central Michigan University chief of police Larry Klaus poses for a photo next to a CMUPD cruiser on Monday, Aug. 26.

Just days after the quietest welcome weekend he said he's seen in the past decade, Larry Klaus is wrapping up his first month as Central Michigan University chief of police. 

Hired in late May, Klaus took over as police chief after former Chief Bill Yeagley retired on July 31. 

Klaus, who has served with CMUPD for the past eight years, previously served for 25 years with the Lansing Police Department. That was where he learned a concept called "community policing," which focuses on integrating police officers throughout designated areas of a community to become familiar with its residents. 

As one of his first moves as chief of police, Klaus is bringing that concept back to CMU by reconfiguring the university's current community policing models. Instead of having two community policing officers on campus -- Officer Laura Martinez and Officer Jeffrey Ballard -- Klaus organized CMU's campus into four quadrants and integrated several officers into each area of campus. 

He said his hope with the community policing model is to have officers treat students the same way they would want a CMU police officer to treat their son or daughter.

A Port Huron native, Klaus lives in DeWitt with his wife, Cindy, 55, with whom he has two kids: Courtney, 28, and Jake, 24. Klaus said he is proud of the fact that both of his kids and his wife are CMU alumni. 

Central Michigan Life sat down with Klaus Aug. 26 to discuss his favorite place to eat in Mount Pleasant, what he loves the most about CMU and his favorite memories as a police officer.

CM Life: What’s one thing you’re really looking forward to in the coming months?

Klaus: We’re going to be celebrating our 50th anniversary as a police department next month. We’re going to fire up the grill and have an open house for a few hours during the afternoon to invite the campus community to come to our department, look at our model range, ask questions and interact with our officers on a casual basis. It'll be a good way to get to know the community.

Other than the community policing model, what changes are you looking to make with CMUPD?

We’re working on improving our communication with the campus through our social media platforms. We want to be more interactive and to tell our story, promote the work our officers are doing on campus. We do a lot, but I think we can do better with promoting our work with students. 

I’ve got lots of other ideas, too. I’m exploring the possibility of a K9 unit. I’m in the beginning parts of that, we’re looking at a utility-type dog that would be an explosive detective dog but also one that could interact with our students.

What’s your favorite thing about CMU?

It’s a more intimate environment. It’s not too large that your can’t get to know and interact with each other. My kids both had phenomenal mentors here, and I honestly believe some of the staff (members) here are incredibly dedicated professionals that truly care about student success.

On a typical weekend that you’re not working, what are you doing?

I really enjoy a walk on the beach with my wife. We occasionally go back to our hometown of Port Huron on the weekends to walk the shore of Lake Huron. I love picking up Petoskey stones and I love snorkeling. I love spending time outdoors. I’m also a new grandpa so I love spending time with my granddaughter.

What’s your favorite place you've traveled to?

I love Tybee Island, Georgia. It’s right on the border of South Carolina. I think Miley Cyrus’ movie "The Last Song" was filmed there. It’s a quaint little island. I love to walk the beach there, pick up shark’s teeth. I love the charm of Georgia, the food.

Central Michigan University chief of police Larry Klaus poses for a photo in his office Monday, Aug. 26 with his collection of stones. Klaus said if he weren't a police officer, his dream job would be as a paleontologist.

What would be your dream job if you weren’t a police officer?

I’m kind of a paleontologist stuck in a police officer’s body. I enjoy fossils, I enjoy science, I like looking at history. I’d probably be at some archeological dig somewhere trying to dig up a fossil. It’s kind of geeky, but that’s what I enjoy doing.

What’s your favorite place to eat in Mount Pleasant?

I love Italian Oven. They’ve got good Italian food, good pizza. We love going there. We’ve always had a good meal there.

What’s your favorite kind of music to listen to?

I’m an old rock and roll guy. I love Bob Seger, Styx, Foreigner, Boston, that’s my genre. My favorite band is Boston. I’m an old '80s rocker.

Do you have a favorite TV show?

I watch very little TV, but when I do I watch a lot of HGTV. My wife and I enjoy that. I also like watching 'American Pickers' on the History Channel, which is a couple of guys that go picking through people’s treasures and resell it. If I had to pick a cop show, I like 'Blue Bloods.'

What is one of your favorite memories from your time as a police officer?

One of the most rewarding moments was when I worked with the city of Lansing and became the commander of the special operations unit. Back in the '80s, crack cocaine was very prevalent, and we wanted to try and trace back the drug to its origins. We found a rock and asked, ‘I wonder how far this rock has traveled?’ So we took that rock and we backtracked it all the way to the Mexican Cartel. It took seven years, and a lot of hard work interviewing people we arrested and working up the chain. 

Our work resulted in the indictment of 54 people through the US Attorney’s Office, and we seized over $6 million in assets and interrupted tens of thousands of pounds of illegal narcotics coming into the city of Lansing. We partnered with the FBI, the IRS, the DEA, and we sent Lansing police officers in Los Angeles, Arizona, New York, all over the country. And our message was: If you bring narcotics into our city, and try to poison our city, we will send our police officers to wherever you are and stop it. And we did. It took a lot of effort to have that come into fruition, but we did it. 

What I’ve found is, this is a tough career. It’s almost like a calling. When people get called into different professions, you have to find people that are called to this profession, and this is my calling.

Do you have any messages for the CMU community?

My door is open. If there’s something we can do better, call and ask. Communicate. Please feel free to engage our officers. What we’re hoping to provide for students is a little different experience with law enforcement than what they would see in their hometown.