Campus Closeup: Charlie Mesloh
It can be somewhat disarming—pun intended—to step foot into the conference room of Charlie Mesloh, the new head of the Criminal Justice department. The bookshelves hold a small arsenal of tools from his past trade: batons, tasers and grenades, to name a few. All are unloaded or deactivated for safety, of course, but they certainly make engaging conversation pieces. And that’s precisely why he displays them so prominently.
“I used to have books on the shelves, but when I would bring students in here during campus visits, I noticed they weren’t opening up or talking much,” he said. “So I decided to pack away the books and bring these out instead. It made a big difference. Something on the shelf may catch their eye and I can pick it up and talk about it to break the ice before we get down to business talking about Northern.”
A native of Sarasota, Fla., Mesloh graduated with a criminal justice degree from the University of Florida and immediately joined the Venice Police Department. He worked as a patrol officer, K9 handler and law enforcement trainer. A line-of-duty injury led to his medical retirement from the force, so he returned to college to earn his master of public administration (MPA) degree and a doctorate.
Mesloh accepted a faculty position at Florida Gulf Coast University, where he had completed his master’s degree. He secured a series of sizable federal grants that enabled him to create the Weapons and Equipment Research Institute. Its primary function was testing the “less lethal” weapons on the law enforcement marketplace, ranging from chemical agents and munitions to flash bangs and compressed-air weapons.
“The goal was to protect citizens from malfunctioning or poorly designed weapons,” he said. “They weren’t always consistently loaded. Sometimes they’d fire too slowly or nightmarishly fast. Or a semi-automatic would turn into a fully automatic by accident. We were a one-stop shop, handling all weapons from low-tech to high-tech. But I started thinking about the risk involved and the potential for someone to get seriously hurt or worse. We had black box cameras in the back of the room in case no one was around to tell what happened. I realized I was taking more chances. When the funding dried up after being so flush for a while, and after I was promoted to full professor, I started looking at other options.”
It always bothered Mesloh that—in Florida—there is no way to link a college or university to a police academy. It was typical to wait six months after completing a four-year degree to enter an academy. So he researched places that offer a seamless transition, with education and training under one umbrella. He found it at Northern. About a week later, he saw the advertisement for department head on NMU’s website and immediately applied.
“It was definitely a leap of faith, but it has exceeded my expectations,” Mesloh said. “It’s a great work environment and Marquette is a great town. There’s less crime and people are very friendly here. In Florida, they’re more reserved and suspicious. I’ve heard all about the weather that’s coming, but I’m ready for it. Last Christmas in Florida, it was so muggy people were in shorts and tank tops looking at the lights. It just didn’t seem right.”
Mesloh’s K9 experience had a lasting effect. His family owns three large German shepherds; two are descendants of his first police dog. His wife, Jennifer James-Mesloh (Education, Leadership and Public Service), is an assistant professor and coordinator of the MPA program. Their 11-year-old son, Perry, attends Bothwell Middle School. The family enjoys outdoor activities and Mesloh still enjoys shooting guns. He and Perry plan to join a local range.