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Michael Thompson: police chief, student and teacher

Chief Michael Thompson shares insight into his student and personal life


ASU Chief of Police Michael L. Thompson speaks to Undergraduate Student Government senators at the USG meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, at Memorial Union in Tempe. 

When he isn’t attending meetings and helping ensure the safety of the University, ASU Police Chief Michael Thompson can be found roaming around campus with other students — because he also is one.

With two master’s degrees under his belt, he is currently pursuing his doctorate in education and said educating himself was a personal goal for as long as he could remember. 

“Each and every one of us has unlimited potential, and we should always be lifelong learners,” Michael Thompson said, adding that he believes it is critical for people to always strive toward the continual pursuit of knowledge.

He also said he wanted to pursue a career in higher education because his teachers were some of the most influential people in his life.

When he initially came to ASU, he was a student in the engineering program and even held a brief stint as a fine art major. These days, whenever he has extra time on his hands, he trades out the service cap for a golf cap and his pencil for a paintbrush, taking on the role of a golfer and an avid artist. 

However, he found that he craved a hands-on career, one filled with action and excitement. He then joined the reserve officer program, where he said he discovered that he loved helping the community — in fact, it was and still is his favorite part of being a police officer and, now, chief.

“I want to be able to serve others and not necessarily think about myself first,” Michael Thompson said. “... Being a police chief isn't really a career, it's a lifestyle.”

After his first graduation, he worked with the Mesa Police Department for over two decades. Then, when he retired from Mesa police — despite originally wanting to be a professor at ASU — he took the opportunity to apply for a position in the ASU Police Department. 

He figured this opportunity could be a doorway to him being able to move into teaching later at ASU. Up until 2017, he was teaching in-person and online classes but had to take a step back in order to focus on his doctorate.

“I had taught criminal law classes to the police academy we had for many years, and I was a subject matter expert in criminal law,” Michael Thompson said. “So, I thought I would like doing this at a college level or higher education level.”

Even though he wasn’t officially hired as a teacher, he still managed to find opportunities to lead by example for others.

Matthew Thompson, a Marine and former ASU student and football player, met Michael Thompson during his junior year after being introduced to him through one of his coaches. Matthew Thompson said there were many lessons he learned from meeting with Chief Michael Thompson — with one of the greatest being humility.

“He is super humble; he’ll just give it to you straight,” Matthew Thompson said, and that he has taught him the importance of understanding that, “No matter what role you play, treat everyone respectfully.”

Michael Thompson said he continually strives to treat those he meets with respect while leading his department by example.

Lt. Joseph Morel of the ASU PD said he admires Michael Thompson’s work ethic, and that his kindness and dedication inspires Morel to continually improve.

“He's still bettering himself every day,” Morel said. “I think the world of him.”

Michael Thompson believes the main reason for his success is a result of his willingness to wholly dedicate himself to whatever he is passionate about and be present in his day-to-day life. He hopes to eventually find time to teach once again at ASU, but because of his busy schedule, he had to give up teaching until he completes his degree.

“I enjoyed teaching in person,” he said. “I just felt like we could interact a little bit more with each other.”

Once his degree is finished, Michael Thompson said he is eager to resume his passion for teaching and serving the ASU community to the fullest.

Editor's Note: Stacy Brinson is also an opinion columnist for The State Press, but this article is not reflective of her personal views.

Reach the reporter at or follow @Stacy_L_Anders on Twitter.

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