A banana came flying from an upper window of Wengatz Hall and hit Officer Jeff Wallace’s patrol car, leaving a smearing of fruit residue on his windshield.
As a new officer on Taylor’s police force, Wallace promptly, and with strong determination, went to confront the students who had taken such accurate aim.
On his way up the stairs, however, Wallace felt God telling him that He had a plan for him involving these students, and how he handled this situation would matter.
Instead, Wallace strolled into the crowded dorm room and said, “Hey guys, so that banana was probably a good banana. If you wanted to give me a banana I’d love to have it because I love bananas.”
As current chief of police at Taylor University, Wallace holds the tough responsibilities that come with his job in tandem with his genuine love and care for the students. He is always quick to share a smile or inquire about a student’s day. Wallace doesn’t just care about the physical safety of the Taylor and Upland community, but he is also intentional about creating a rich, nurturing and joyful atmosphere.
After earning an undergraduate degree in social work from Taylor University, he and his wife, Lisa, moved to Detroit, Mich. where he served as a police officer and detective for 13 years. Wallace reflects fondly on those years during which all three of his children were born, and they enjoyed living close to his wife’s family.
Wallace’s policing experiences in metro Detroit were certainly different than many of the cases he has dealt with at Taylor. In his very first foot chase as a rookie officer, the individual was jumping fences and running down allies.
“I wanted to prove it to the guys (that) I got this,” said Wallace.
In what Wallace assumed was the perfect position to take down the man on the run, Wallace opened his arms to tackle him to the ground, and the man completely hurdled him.
The other officers never let him live it down.
As a police officer in metro Detroit, Wallace encountered plenty of tough circumstances and people. Despite this, he loved getting to know the people in the Detroit community and always enjoyed when those he served invited him to their family cookouts or social gatherings.
“I was able to see so much beauty in the hard stuff, so much light in the darkness,” Wallace said.
When the Lord called Wallace and his family back to Upland, it was not an easy transition. Although difficult, Wallace said he had to follow in obedience. He did not have a concrete plan for the future when he handed in his resignation in metro Detroit, but he felt God calling him. Wallace was open to whatever God had for him.
It was not long before he received a call offering him a job as a full-time police officer at Taylor. After a difficult and sorrowful departure from their friends and Lisa’s family, the Wallaces moved back down to Indiana.
Two weeks after the move, Lisa expressed to Wallace that she, too, felt that they were exactly where God wanted them.
“That, still to this day, that meant the world to me,” said Wallace.
Although it is evident to Wallace that God was guiding his steps, there was no shortage of uncertainty during that transition from Detroit to Upland. He experienced a significant decrease in pay, and had to come to terms with the slower-paced role of an officer at Taylor versus in metro Detroit.
Despite these challenges, Wallace stayed firm in obedience.
“It was never difficult,” Wallace said. “It was like God made it all work.”
Flash forward three years and one throw of a banana later, and Wallace stepped into his current position of chief of police.
“It has turned into an amazing journey of very intentional relationship building with students, and it has meant everything to me and my family,” Wallace said.
Wallace views his job as a police officer not just as a role but as a relationship. In each of his positions, Wallace has placed an emphasis on getting to know the community he protects so that he can serve them to the best of his ability.
As for his favorite part about his job, Wallace was quick to respond, “Oh, that’s easy — the students.”
Wallace’s passion for the students at Taylor is abundantly evident, even from just a few short minutes of conversation. He goes where the students are, and has committed to take every opportunity to develop trust and be involved in the students’ lives.
From Upland, to Detroit, and back to Upland, Wallace has been intentional to make his line of work about so much more than catching the bad guys. He seeks to foster relationships built on trust and grace in the communities he protects. He seeks to do what Jesus would do and love first.
“Whatever you do, find something that you love, that you’re in the will of the Lord for, and that you just absolutely adore doing, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” said Wallace. “And I can honestly say, even in the hard stuff, even in the difficult stuff, even in times right now which are hard, it’s like it’s not a job.”