Alumni Spotlight

Name: Officer Joe Denning

Year of Graduation: 2006

Current Title: Patrolman First Class for Huntington Police Department

Favorite Movie: Super Troopers

Favorite Band/Musical Group: Garth Brooks

One Piece of Advice He Gives Everyone: “It hurts more if you run.”

Huntington police officer Joe Denning and his K-9, Rudy, make a fantastic team. They’ve found illegal narcotics. They’ve made sure buildings are clear after crime or emergencies. They’ve tracked down an escaped inmate and located a notorious car burglar.

With excellent training and years spent working side by side, the two are making Huntington a safer place. Rudy got his training from Denning, and Denning got his strong foundation in law enforcement from the Criminal Justice program at Marshall University.

The 2006 graduate now serves as Patrolman First Class for the HPD, working the midnight shift with his dual-trained Belgian Malinous, who sniffs out four odors of narcotics and is trained in apprehension and tracking tactics to help find missing children or senior citizens. Rudy also has been trained to help a SWAT team in various scenarios. Denning is one of seven K-9 handlers in his department, having undergone about six months of additional training and certification work.

Denning was always drawn to a career in law enforcement. What he didn’t foresee, however, was what a great experience it would be to study in Marshall University’s Criminal Justice program.

“I remember the welcoming environment, discussion on current topics and what was going on in the world at that time,” he said, adding that his education at Marshall “showed me back then to always have an open dialogue. There are several different viewpoints and opinions and you realize that you should sit back and look at something from a different perspective.”

As a Marshall student, Denning spent 12 days in London and Paris under the leadership of Dr. Dhruba Bora, now chairman of the department. They toured an English prison and met with a number of police departments, talking with officials there about how their law enforcement systems operated.

“It was my first time studying abroad, and it was nice because we got to go and talk to the law enforcement officials in those countries and compare their structure and organizations to our country,” Denning said.

Marshall’s criminal justice professors were extremely helpful throughout his college years, Denning said, describing them as “hands-on and steering me on the right path to the career I have now.”

After graduation, Denning spent over a year with the Western Regional Jail in Barboursville, West Virginia, before joining HPD in 2008. Among his favorite aspects of the job is when he gets to meet community members and introduce them to Rudy in a positive atmosphere, rather than during an arrest.

“Luckily, being a canine handler, we do a lot of demos at schools or with student groups like Boy Scouts,” he said. “Showing our youth what we do, why we do it and how we do it is one of the best parts of my job. Instead of kids misbehaving, we hopefully get to reach them early on and tell them that we are there to help people.

“We don’t want them to be terrified of us. We want people to come to us if they need help.”

To learn more about the alumni in the Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, visit