Former Cape police chief settling into new role, reflects on old one

Thursday, August 16, 2012
Retiring Police Chief Carl Kinnison listens to friends and colleagues talk about his career with the Cape Girardeau Police Department, along with a few good natured jabs, during a reception July 27 at city hall. Kinnison is now a full-time instructor with Southeast Missouri State University. (Adam Vogler)

Carl Kinnison was having lunch with a friend last week who noted that the now retired police officer's career had come full circle. When Kinnison thought about it for a moment, he agreed.

Kinnison attended Southeast Missouri State University in the mid-1970s in the years before he took the only law enforcement job he would ever know -- the one with the Cape Girardeau Police Department, the last seven as its chief. In the early days of his law enforcement career, he also served as the director of the Law Enforcement Academy before it came under the jurisdiction of his alma mater.

Now, with his retirement earlier this month, Kinnison was behind the desk of his new job on Wednesday -- teaching at Southeast and again directing the academy that trains aspiring police officers who most would like to rise to the level that Kinnison did.

"So it is full circle," Kinnison said. "Really, that's exactly what's happening. It's sort of back to where it all began."

Kinnison considers this the second chapter of his career. During his 35 years at the department, he dealt with major cases -- a serial killer who eluded officers for decades, two triple homicides that were separated by just six weeks and a host of other violent offenses. He also dealt with relatively minor cases -- speeders, DWIs, domestic disputes and other day-to-day aspects of the job.

As chief, his role shifted to part lawman, part lobbyist. The job is a stressful one, he admits, which is a minor factor in his decision to retire at 55. But he knew all along he wanted to end up in education. The job as director of law enforcement was not even hinted at until his last week at the Cape Girardeau department. Michael Brown announced his own retirement as director of the academy shortly after Kinnison made public his plans to leave the department.

The university asked if Kinnison would consider adding the director's job that puts applicants through 720 hours of training on how to be an effective police officer. He will also teach several courses at the university to help mold the minds of those seeking criminal justice degrees.

Both roles are intended to, in part, help create good cops. Kinnison already has a few ideas about what makes a good one, including some intangibles that aren't taught in a classroom.

"There's no question you have to be open-minded and patient," Kinnison said. "You have to have a good temperament and a tolerant person. You can be in a hostile situation one minute trying to get control and an hour later you're trying to console a victim that's been raped or lost a child in a motor vehicle accident."

While the university has found its replacement for Brown, city officials are still working to find a replacement for Kinnison as chief. Assistant chief Roger Fields has been named interim chief. Assistant city manager Heather Brooks said the city is finalizing the wording for advertisements that will be seen nationwide. A time frame that could last longer than 90 days is also being inked. The job will be advertised as starting in the upper $70,000s, though Brooks could not immediately provide Kinnison's salary.

But they will be looking to find someone like Kinnison, Brooks said, who had a strong presence and good leadership skills. She noted that Kinnison also was a leader in his field. He received honors throughout his career, including awards in several categories. He served a four-year term on the Police Officer Standards and Training Commission and a two-year term as president of the university's health and human services advisory board, among others.

"He was an amazing chief," Brooks said. "He worked up within the ranks. He knew the trends and the progressive improvements being done in those areas. He could also see the big picture beyond the police department as well. He was a listener, but when he did talk, you could tell there was a lot of thought behind what he said."

smoyers@semissourian.com

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Pertinent address:

1 University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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