New director with a wealth of law enforcement experience takes the helm for Kirtland Regional Police Academy
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
After being hired to serve as the director for the Kirtland Regional Police Academy last July, Shannon Dekun had to go through the training regimen with the cadets herself.
Dekun learned the position was open through the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards website.
For the next six months, she went through the academy’s training because she had to be recertified as a police officer.
“I got to see the instructors first hand, and they are very, very good,” Dekun said. “I observed the instructors that first six months, and there are no instructor changes that need to transpire at all.”
Serving as a law enforcement officer is in the roots of Dekun’s family since her father and both her brothers are police officers.
“When you grow up in law enforcement, it’s what you’re familiar with,” she said. “It’s in the family, so there was a greater exposure because of that.”
Dekun was a deputy for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office for four and a half years. She then went on to work on the City of Detroit’s Police Department for 10 and a half years. She worked at several precincts and held a number of assignments including as a community policing officer, patrol officer, sergeant, investigator, detective, critical scene response team member, breaking and entering task force member, special operations team member, and homicide team investigator.
Prior to taking the job at Kirtland Community College, Dekun worked for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for three years.
As Dekun assumed the role as director of the police academy, the simulator used to train cadets in decision making, critical thinking, and communication was upgraded.
“If a cadet or an officer has a specific response to the scene, we can control what the person on the screen is going to do and say next,” she said.
The simulator, which is also used for target practice and firearms instruction, can now offer up to 1,100 scenarios.
“You’re basically stepping into the scene and they’re reacting to a scenario that you have to engage with,” Dekun said. “It’s a huge improvement than what we had before.”
In addition, physical fitness equipment was also upgraded to facilitate training with the cadets.
Dekun is also a teacher for Kirtland Community College’s criminal justice program. Courses, which help future cadets hone their decision and communication, are included in their curriculum to earn asn associate’s degree.
“It hits all of the qualification, but it still fits in with the law enforcement end,” she said.
Classes have also been tweaked to help cadets with their report writing and communication skills as they become police officers.
“They’re getting a little bit more, but it’s geared for their actual profession,” Dekun said.
Volunteers are brought in to role play with the students to help bolster thier communication and interviewing skills.
“It kinds of forces that communication,” Dekun said. “I think that’s a benefit to the students. I think Kirtland is making the right choice in basing a lot of training hours on that portion of the training, because the students are benefitting from it, the communities are benefitting from it. It’s a win-win.”
Training at the academy has always been focused on officer safety and is modified as needed.
“If we hear of something that we aren’t doing as far as law enforcement officers, we’re modifying training to address those issues. I have found from observing that our firearms instructors are fantastic,” Dekun said. “They are up to date on what happens with current shootings and those issues for safety.”
Dekun says she likes to be a sounding board for cadets and students as they inquire about serving as a police officer in an urban setting to law enforcement agencies in northern Michigan.
“It’s just another person to get knowledge from,” she said. “They have full access to me anytime they want to talk to me.”
She also likes to see the growth level in the students as they change their ideas of what law enforcement officers do as they go through the program.
“That is very rewarding to see the change that they have made,” Dekun said.
Thirteen cadets graduated from the Kirtland Regional Police Academy in December, and a new class with 15 students started this week.
They all have a bright outlook since the State of Michigan was down over 500 police officers in October as older officers and others become eligible for retirement.
“That’s a lot to be able to come up with and to get them trained out,” Dekun said.
As the first woman to hold the position at the college, Dekun brings to the program extensive experience in public safety, as well as exemplary leadership and strategic vision.
“Investing in our future law enforcement is vital to a strong community,” Dekun said. “I envision our program leading the way through ethics, professionalism, excellent communication skills, and integrity. With real-world training scenarios and one-on-one faculty instructions, I am confident in our program’s ability to prepare the best possible law enforcement officers.”