Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Retired Cape Girardeau police chief teaches and trains at Southeast

Monday, August 20, 2012
Carl Kinnison is a full-time professor and the director of the Law Enforcement Academy at Southeast Missouri State University. Photo by Nathan Hamilton

Carl Kinnison is the former chief of police of Cape Girardeau and a part-time instructor at Southeast Missouri State University. He became the city's chief of police in 2005 and retired from the Cape Girardeau Police Department on Aug. 1. He then became a full-time professor at Southeast and the director of the Law Enforcement Academy.

Kinnison graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and from SIU-Carbondale with a master's degree in Administration of Justice. He also received a certificate of completion from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Training Academy in Quantico, Va. He was the director of the Law Enforcement Academy in the mid-80s before it was transitioned to Southeast.

Q: What is your favorite memory of serving as chief of police?

A: My favorite memory is when we were able to announce that we had identified the killer of five women here in Cape. There's no doubt that that stands out from most everything. Those were crimes that horrified and terrorized our community. I was actually working during two of those homicides and, of course, was in the community. I grew up here and experienced that horror and terror the community went through after those. So to be able to resolve those and to announce that we had identified the killer and that the killer had actually confessed to those crimes is probably the thing that stands out the most.

Q: Why did you decide to be an officer of the law?

A: It was one of those things that, at a young age, I had just developed an interest in. I sometimes go back and ask myself and try to pinpoint what it was about this occupation that attracted me to it. I'm not sure I have a real solid answer to that. It's just that as I was in high school I remember being fascinated with law enforcement. Of course, I remember a few of the TV shows back then, like "Dragnet" and "Adam 12," all those police television series I was fascinated with. I had also had a couple of positive encounters with law enforcement officers.

I'd been to the St. Louis area, my uncle and aunt lived up there. There was a burglary next door. A couple of officers came to the door doing a routine canvas. I was just impressed with that. In addition to that, I had always recognized it as a relatively secure job, and I was one of those people who liked that, that security of getting into law enforcement. It's seldom when you see police officers that are laid off or communities that are laying off police officers. While the pay isn't that great, it is a relatively secure job. I think all of that factored into my reason for getting into the profession.

Q: Why did you want to teach at Southeast?

A: Well, that was one of my other interests, believe it or not. When I went to school here, and I graduated, I went to SIU-Carbondale. I knew I wanted to pursue an advanced degree. In the back of my mind, even then, I had thought of getting experience in the law enforcement profession and then moving into an instructor position somewhere. In fact, when I graduated with my master's degree I looked into working on my Ph.D. But by that point, I had had several years experience here, and I was in an assignment I really enjoyed, and I had been promoted, and I decided not to pursue it then.

I knew I wanted to pursue the teaching. I began teaching in the Law Enforcement Academy way back in 1982, 1983. And I really enjoyed that. It's been in the back of my mind for years. When I graduated with my master's at SIU-Carbondale they asked me to teach a class. I taught a class there. It was great, I enjoyed it. It didn't work out to continue then ... in the mid-90s I started teaching here part time. I always enjoyed it. I always considered it something I could make a second career out of.

Q: What experiences prepared you for teaching, mentoring and training at the Law Enforcement Academy?

A: I worked my way through the police department here in pretty much every capacity. As a patrol officer, as a detective, as a traffic officer, as a relations person, as a training officer, as training coordinator for a number of years. I oversaw operations and then I was the chief. So I think that that brings -- just about from a municipal law enforcement environment -- I think that brings the whole gamut of experience to the table. It's something I hope to be able to share with the students that are in my classes.

Q: What is one piece of advice that you would pass on to students?

A: To really stay open, to remain open about what their interests are and to really get a good sense for what the job is. Most of the students that are taking courses in criminal justice know that they want to get into some field. Some know that they want to get into law enforcement. Others know that they don't want to get into law enforcement. They want to move into the corrections side of it, they want to get into parole. Some are looking to get into the field of law.

Q: Describe the transition from police chief to director of the Law Enforcement Academy.

A: First of all, as a chief, you certainly realize what training you would like to see your officers have and go through. ... Basic academy training is mandated by the state, so the curriculum for the academy is pretty well set by state standards. But the in-service training is something that you have some flexibility with, and even though you have to have certain numbers and certain categories, it's pretty flexible. You can identify those training needs that you think would be good to help make your officers more efficient, better, more effective, better at what they're doing. So from that perspective it's not a difficult transition at all. I've had the experience training. I've had what it takes to provide training, to set up the training, to bring people in. Overall, the transition, I don't see the transition as very difficult. Its job is different; running a police organization and then running a training academy is more singular focused. That's kind of nice, to be able to really focus on one thing. But the transition itself is not that difficult.

Q:How has Southeast welcomed you?

A: Oh, very well, with open arms. It's been great. I couldn't have asked for anything better. I'm looking forward to working with them. And, of course, I've known them for a number of years so that helps. It's not like coming in as the new kid on the block.