BETHLEHEM, Pa. — For Black History Month, 69 News is continuing to share profiles on modern-day history makers throughout the region. Among them is Harrison Dillard, the chief of Moravian University Police and the founder of the Hunterdon County, New Jersey NAACP chapter.
Dillard used his challenging past to propel his positive future.
“I lived in the projects in Perth Amboy,” said Dillard. “My mother went into the Army when I was six years old and I really equate that to saving our lives."
His father, who struggled with substance abuse, was shot and killed when he was nine.
"I knew, shortly after my father died, that I wanted to be an undercover narcotics detective, because I wanted to beat drug dealers on their own game,” said Dillard.
But first, after graduating Rutgers, Dillard enlisted in the Army.
“I did five years as a military policeman,” said Dillard. “I felt not only did I want to serve my country obviously, but I felt I owed a debt to the Army for saving me."
Then right after, he got that dream job as an undercover narcotics detective at the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office in New Jersey.
25 years in law enforcement flew by, with some of that spent in major crimes units. Dillard retired as the first Black captain at the Morris County Prosecutor's Office.
But the dad of four wasn't done fueling change. He began anti-bias and anti-bullying training in schools.
After starting as a Title IX investigator at Moravian University, when he was told the police chief position opened up, he initially wasn't interested.
"The allure to me was reading our mission statement, making students have a safe environment where they can thrive, trying to keep them on the right path,” said Dillard.
Over the last 14 months, "I feel like I'm living my second dream job,” said Dillard.
Dillard says he's diversified the force with new hires.
Plus, as the Civil Rights and Diversity Committee Chairperson of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, he's helped craft three Garden State laws. Those are aimed at increasing the number of police recruits who reflect the communities they serve.
He works with the Civil Service Commission in New Jersey and is a member of the Muslim American Law Enforcement Association.
Dillard is also getting his MBA at Moravian.
He believes that will benefit his work with the NAACP chapter he formed in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, where he lives.
“The law enforcement profession has taken a hit over the last few years and rightfully so,” said Dillard. “But I feel like we have a great opportunity to give people a positive perception of law enforcement and all it takes is engaging with the community and letting them know we're here for them."