Living by Faith Outside the Comfort Zone: Joel Herzog

By: Kendra Housel

At the age of 39, Joel Herzog found himself going back to school, surrounded by others who were about a decade younger than he was.

He originally came to Indiana Wesleyan University to complete his associate’s degree, and then he went on and to get his bachelor’s degree in management in 2010.

His time at IWU was quite unique. Herzog, returning to higher education and balancing that with his family life, found himself at one point stuck with the problem of needing to do homework, but already being committed to taking his daughter to a concert.

He jokes that he was the only person at the Jonas Brothers Concert reading the Bible.

Herzog chose to attend IWU both for its community and the proximity to his home in West Chester.

Though he was considerably older than his fellow students, which was difficult at times, he enjoyed his time and thrived in a learning environment which emphasized personal attention between professors and students.

Today, Herzog is the Chief of Police at the West Chester police station. It is a larger agency than most, where they will soon have 90 officers on staff.

He works often in the behind-the-scenes duties as Chief, so his days either look very routine, (planning meetings, looking at requests, setting goals, etc.) or they are incredibly difficult (discerning the next appropriate move in a hostage situation).

This, Herzog said, is why his faith is so essential, and why he is so thankful for his time at IWU.

Before coming to IWU, Herzog was raised Catholic, but had not gone to church faithfully for many years.

Through his professors showing him how everything ties back to God, Herzog began attending a nondenominational church constantly and recognized the importance of following Jesus faithfully.

His faith now informs everything he does, both in his personal life and in his job as Chief. He finds that it is important to pray for and with his officers and members of the community.

He has also taken hold of the unique opportunity he found in the West Chester department. When he began, two officers were ordained ministers, and the number has increased to four.

These chaplains are always available to the officers to help them process their spiritual well-being on the job, which in some places can be taboo. However, Herzog says spiritual well-being is just as important as physical well-being.

With a faith that he says has given him a greater vision and more compassion, Herzog has prioritized community engagement with his unit. He wants the community to know his men by their first names and as people, not only as officers.

Herzog stresses how important it is to get out of your comfort zone and to be around people who are not exactly like you. For his men, this not only opens their eyes to different people’s stories and life styles, but it also helps to continue to show communities that police officers are just normal people.

In his pursuit of community connection, Herzog likes to take his wife and visit a new church on some Sundays.

The first time he did this was a very special occasion and it left a lasting impact.

In July 2016, at the height of tension between African American communities and police officers, five officers were shot in Dallas, Texas.

Herzog did the only thing he could think to do: he donned his uniform and took his wife to a predominantly black church that Sunday morning. What happened there was a work of God: amazing love and embracing between the parties that he struggled to describe in a way that would fully honor the memory.

Herzog looks back at that experience as a powerful time, where a bond was built with members of that church family that last to today, because of the great compassion and understanding they shared in such a tumultuous time.

When asked what additional words of wisdom he had for current IWU students, Herzog shared the words he shares with his officers: “If something is important to you – sports, education, marriage, parenting – don’t train until you can get it right … train until you can’t get it wrong. Stick with it; life doesn’t always give you a second shot. Take what you got, work for what you got and fight for what you got.”

Watch the video from the Homecoming Celebration honoring Col. Joel Herzog!

Written by Kendra Housel, writer for the IWU Alumni Center. Kendra is a junior Education and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. She is also a member of the University Chorale. Kendra is passionate about serving Christ through writing, singing and caring for others.

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