McCutchen becomes city’s interim police chief

Posted on Feb 18 2019 - 5:50am by Taylor Vance

Jeff McCutchen will prioritize increasing dialogue in the community as Oxford Police Department’s new interim police chief.

McCutchen, a New Albany native, began working at OPD as a patrol officer and worked his way up to major of operations over a span of 14 years.

He first started interacting with the community on a large scale by helping launch OPD’s Twitter profile, which has a following of over 38,000 people.

“The goal of starting the Twitter page was just to start having a conversation with people,” he said.

Jeff McCutchen was recently appointed as the interim OPD police chief after working on the police force for the past 14 years. Photo by Katherine Butler

McCutchen wants to build on this philosophy, regardless of the length of his term as interim police chief.

“Our goal is to be a relationship-building department,” he said. “We want to care about our community. We want to pour into our community, and you do that with balance. That’s balance with enforcement, and that’s balance with community involvement.”

McCutchen said even though policing in a college town is subject to a unique set of difficulties, college students in the community are generally cooperative and receptive to the police department.

“I want (students) to know that we aren’t perfect and we realize that,” McCutchen said. “But we can have a better relationship by communicating more and working better together.”

During this past year, many community members had questions about how to best cooperate with OPD when going to bars on the Square because of the passage of the Alcohol and Safety ordinance in September which requires alcohol-serving establishments to scan patrons’ IDs.

The city and the police department pushed for the passage of the ordinance because they believed it would decrease crime on the Square and help prevent minors from drinking at bars.

McCutchen said there are still some issues with the ordinance being worked out, and he is working with bar owners to correct them. He didn’t specify the issues at play but said the police department is looking to improve the implementation of the ordinance.

He said he doesn’t think the issues with the ordinance are going to be fixed “in two weeks or three months,” but rather through approaching incidents on a case by case basis. He hopes OPD will be able to communicate with bar owners and students on how to improve the ordinance and safety on the Square.

“It’s going to be one of those things where, case by case, conversation by conversation, we get everybody working together, and I think we’re working on that,” McCutchen said.

McCutchen became the interim chief when former OPD Chief Joey East announced his candidacy for Lafayette County sheriff. The city requires anyone who is employed by the city to take a leave of absence while running for public office.

East said he thought McCutchen was a great choice to lead the department but emphasized it will be difficult for him to push for new ideas or make a lot of changes as an interim chief.

“(McCutchen) will need to keep the department moving forward with technology, and I believe a major challenge that he is up for will be to prepare and propose a budget that takes OPD through the coming year,” East said in an email to The Daily Mississippian.

When asked if he would consider taking on the role of permanent police chief in the case East is elected sheriff, McCutchen said, “That’s not up to me.”