With more than 20 years in law enforcement, Chief Reggie Bartkowski brings extensive experience from the various positions he’s held, specifically dealing with emergency management and high-risk scenarios. He is more than prepared to handle dangerous situations quickly and efficiently, making him the best choice as PCC’s incident commander and security department manager. He leads a close-knit security team that watches over campus 24/7, constantly preparing and readjusting for any event that could happen.
1. Where did your interest in criminal justice begin?
My interest started at the age of 5. Anytime I heard a siren, I would run out into the front yard to watch the police car go by so I could see the emergency lights. I also received a tour of the local police station in the 1st grade and knew this was the job for me. I have always admired and respected police officers. When I turned 21 years old, I did a “ride-along” with a deputy sheriff. During the ride-along, the deputy I was with got into a high-speed pursuit and traveled about 20 miles. I was scared but loved it. From that point on, I was hooked and began applying for police positions.
2. What brought you to Pensacola Christian College?
My oldest daughter was attending PCC, and my other children were wanting to attend here. I am very close to my children, and I wanted to be closer to them than the 3,000 miles of distance from Washington State. I believe God led me to PCC to be a help with emergency management. This is an area that I have a lot of experience in, and I believe I can be a blessing to this ministry.
3. Before coming to PCC, you were promoted through several law enforcement positions, and became one of the youngest police administrators in Washington State. How has your experience over the years informed the decisions you make on the job?
I started in law enforcement as a young graveyard shift patrol officer. After a few years, I was able to apply to become a K9 officer and partnered with a German Shepherd named Chico that was trained in both patrol and narcotics work. While I was a K9 officer, I was promoted to detective and investigated major crimes like homicide and robbery. A few years later I was promoted to sergeant and supervised a patrol squad; this taught me how to lead people. When the assistant chief position became vacant, I applied and was blessed to become one of the youngest police administrators in the state of Washington. This position taught me how to be organized and how to plan effectively. I was an assistant chief for about eight years when the chief of police position opened. I applied and was voted unanimously by the city council to fill the position. I stayed in that position until I retired with over 20 years of service to come to PCC. As chief of police, you become a very good listener and delegator. You realize quickly you cannot do everything yourself, and you surround yourself with great staff. This is exactly what has happened here at PCC. I have an amazing staff in Security.
4. You are the current incident commander and security department manager at PCC. How do these roles compare to your past experiences?
Being an incident commander either in law enforcement or at PCC is very similar. You must have clear plans, conduct training, and have a great team around you. This was my goal when I arrived at PCC, and I have been blessed to have a team to help me. PCC has an excellent security department and many members in the ministry already understood and were trained in emergency response.
5. Shortly after beginning your position at PCC, you experienced Hurricane Sally. What was it like to handle that emergency situation, and what did you learn from it?
Coming from Washington State, I never had to deal with hurricanes or tornadoes. I had been in Pensacola for only two weeks when Hurricane Sally brought a Category 2 storm to our campus. It might sound unusual, but I enjoy working under high-pressure situations to keep people safe. I quickly learned the names of many staff members who were part of the Emergency Operations Team. I was very impressed with how prepared PCC was to handle a hurricane the size of Sally. We have safe facilities, amazing backup utility options, and very effective emergency communications through critical alerts.
6. You interact with students regularly, whether on the job, answering an emergency call, or working through a college event. What impressions have they left on you?
I have been so impressed and encouraged with the students at this college. I used to respond to a lot of issues in schools back in Washington. Shortly before I came to PCC, I responded to fights and arguments daily in the public schools. I have been here at PCC for 19 months and I have not had a single fight. Students are very respectful and overwhelmingly show amazing character. I pray the students of PCC never lose their kindness and Christian attitude.
7. What are some hobbies or interests you enjoy in your free time?
I am a huge football fan. I enjoy watching the Oregon Ducks and the Seattle Seahawks. I also enjoy time with my family. A bonus to moving to Pensacola is having some of the world’s greatest beaches on our doorsteps. I love walking on the beach with my wife. I have never been a fisherman, but I am ready to learn. This has always been an interest of mine that I’ve never had time to pursue.
8. After 20 years of working in the force, is there a memory that stands out to you the most?
Law enforcement was a great career choice for me. God blessed me and protected me. The best memories I have of working in law enforcement are working with fellow Christians. I can remember praying numerous times as an entire department before responding to emergencies.
9. What are some places in Pensacola your family enjoys?
The beach by far is our favorite place to go. Other places we enjoy are the Pensacola Village and [Blue] Wahoos baseball games. We also plan on traveling to Foley, Alabama, and eating at Lambert’s Cafe.
10. What campus safety advice would you recommend to students as they go about their day?
Program Security’s phone number into your cell phone so you can easily contact us for any safety concerns. Students can call it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you see something, say something.
Some other practical safety advice is to always protect your property. Never leave items like your backpack, laptop, or cell phone unattended—even if it’s just for a minute. Make it a habit to take these valuables with you. Lock your car and take your keys. In the parking lot, never leave valuables in your car or items in plain view. Take items like GPS devices, computers, and electronics with you. Never leave your keys in your car. Make sure your windows are up and the doors are locked.
Plan your activity. When going off campus (alone or in a group), plan where you’re going, what route you’re going to take, and when you plan to return. Share this information with someone you trust before you go.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.