After 33 years of holding ranks as a police officer — ranging from detective sergeant, lieutenant, captain and, finally, deputy chief of the Purdue University Police Department — Keene Red Elk has decided to move on from the force.
Red Elk retired from law enforcement on Jan. 29 after becoming deputy chief in October 2019.
In his extensive time at PUPD, he said the pervasiveness of technology as it has developed over the years has had positive and negative effects on policing.
“Having students who possess the ability to reach globally has created an additional opportunity for fraud,” he said. “But it has also helped improve vigilance with the ability for students to sign up for emergency notifications and text alerts, especially with the increasing number of students at Purdue.”
Technology has had far-reaching benefits in the community in the area of crime-solving, with innovations such as digital footprints enabling officers to track persons of interest, Red Elk said.
Police officers also faced enhanced scrutiny after instances of police brutality, which Red Elk said has helped improve officers’ professionalism.
“It has made law enforcement nationwide more accountable when police officers are aware that other people could take pictures and videos of them with their phones if they aren’t acting accordingly, and they could lose their jobs,” he said.
Red Elk, who graduated from Western Governors University with a bachelor’s degree in business management, said he always had interest in being a police officer.
“I’ve wanted to be a police officer since I was a little boy and had planned to study law enforcement,” he said. “But a trooper that I had talked to when I was about 17 years old said that it is a narrow degree that doesn’t leave you with a lot of options.
“He said, ‘You can get a job with just about any degree.’ I now see that a lot of the stuff I took in my business classes applied when I started moving up the ranks.”
Red Elk is retiring from PUPD to challenge himself in other areas, he said. He has taken over as director of logistics for Purdue. He now oversees parking, transportation services, maintenance and the materials management distribution center.
“After having been a police officer for 33 years, it was a natural path for me that when I someday decided to leave the police department, I would move toward the corporate and revenue-generating side of things outside of law enforcement,” Red Elk said. “So when the director of logistics position was available, I thought it a good opportunity for me to apply.”
Having worked closely with Red Elk, PUPD Chief John Cox said the former deputy chief will be missed.
“It was a pleasure working with Red Elk,” he said. “He was a good worker and had incredible work ethic.”
Leslie Wiete, who was sworn in Feb. 4 to replace Red Elk as deputy chief, said her time with her predecessor was positive. He helped to facilitate a smooth transition into her new position.
“Keene is great with people,” she said. “He has a way of making anyone laugh, even in a tough situation.”