It might surprise a few people to find out that Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen is actually very personable and talkative in person. Those who are used to just seeing him in somber settings like crime scenes and courtrooms would find themselves conversing with a well-educated gentleman with an excellent memory for details, past and present.
An Illinois native, McQueen found his way to study Mass Communications at Jackson State University. He said he then had difficulty in finding a job in his field, and he realized he needed to look at other career options.
“I saw an ad in the newspaper and was planning to relocate here,” McQueen said. “I actually had to leave and go back to Jackson and work as a regional sales manager for Budweiser while I went through this entire hiring process of nearly a year.”
McQueen and his wife Terisa finally settled in Columbus when he joined the Columbus Police Department on January 18, 1988. He said they were blessed with four children and, now a two-year-old grandson. After over twenty years on the force, McQueen was appointed Chief of Police in late 2011.
“We’ve been through a lot,” he said. “This city has been through a lot.I like this. It gives me great joy to be able to ride throughout the city and to see elderly people able to sit out on their porches and to be able to enjoy the sunshine and the breeze. I’ve seen times that they weren’t able to do that because they were so afraid they were inside. So now, you’ll see a lot more people sitting out on their porches. In addition to that, it gives me great joy to ride by the parks and see the children out there being able to play, and there not being gunfire while they’re out there.”
However, Mcqueen said the job does have its drawbacks.
“My least favorite part of the job is two things,” McQueen said. “First and foremost, is when children are the victims of crimes, I don’t like that. Secondly, is Monday morning quarterbacking. The City of Columbus has invested a lot of money, time, and training in the men and women of the Columbus Police Department. With that thought in mind, as it relates to MMQ, especially with the social media that I used to read, it flabbergasts me, if you will, to see that people who’ve never lived this life, people who don’t know what it’s like to go behind a building at 2:00 in the morning in the pitch black dark and face the possibility of encountering some armed suspect. I’ll tell you, I’ve actually lived this. How many of them have been shot at, and had to return fire to save the lives of other people? With that thought in mind, it’s totally unfair in that you have lay people who know more about our business than we do. It kills morale, it’s unfair, and disrespectful. It’s like that Indian saying: Until you walk a mile in my moccasins, you should keep quiet.”
McQueens said the most surprising part of his job is that “the pendulum swings both ways. “You can literally go out one day and do your job and there’s a certain element of society that is really grateful, that appreciates what you do,” he said. “Then, there’s another element that, no matter what you do…you could rescue ten people from a burning building, take five rounds to the chest, get run over by a car, and save the damsel in distress, and they’re still not happy. They wouldn’t be happy if Jesus, Himself, got off the cross and saved the world. You’ll still find a low percentage of citizenry that are not happy with anyone, including themselves. And that one percent is the apple that ruins the whole barrel. I’m your friend. I’m your friend, so long as you’re good.”
Over the years, McQueen says he has seen it all, from the most horrible crimes to the weirdly funny.
“I remember one night, some guy was breaking in to a building through the duct work, and he got stuck,” McQueen recalled. “He had to wait until the next morning, when the business owner came in and had to bang on the pipes to get his attention. Our police officers had to pull him out, and of course, he was charged with breaking and entering, adding insult to injury.”
McQueen said he realizes that he is not where he is without a heap of support from family friends and co-workers.
“I would like the city of Columbus to know that they have one of the best police departments in the state of Mississippi, and it could be oh, so much better with their support,” McQueen said. “We have a lot of support, we really do, and we’re thankful. Our officers and reserve officers work hard for this city every day, and I appreciate each and every one of them. I also want to thank all the pastors who’ve lent their support to me, personally, in my development. They know who they are. I thank them for their spiritual support and advisement. “