A tragic event that happened to a young Shane Parker set him down the path of becoming a police officer — it just took him two decades to get there.
Back in his hometown of Effingham, Illinois, 11-year-old Parker and his best friend, 10-year-old Joshua Kelley, hopped on their bikes and pedaled around the neighborhood, just like they had done many times. Kelley was the brother of Parker’s girlfriend at the time — yes, Parker had a girlfriend at the age of 11. Kelley’s grandparents lived next door to the Parkers and often visited from St. Louis.
On this afternoon, after circling the neighborhood, the two boys crossed a busy intersection en route to the dog pound. After getting their quota of doggie kisses for the day, the two pedaled back the direction they came. When approaching that same congested intersection, Parker braked at the stop sign. Kelley did not. The next sequence of events is still — at the age of 40 — difficult to talk about for Parker.
At the same time as Kelley zoomed by the stop sign, a semi-truck barreled toward the intersection. Upon seeing the truck, Kelley tried to stop, but his momentum sent him forward. Kelley ended up underneath a rear tire. Dead on impact.
That incident haunted Parker for years. A counselor helped with the grieving process while he hoped Kelley’s family didn’t blame him for the death. He often thinks about his friend to this day.
“I wouldn’t put that on anybody,” Parker said.
The lowest point of Parker’s life led him to Effingham police officer Ron Meek and triggered the childhood dream of becoming a cop. Meek comforted Parker at the scene and escorted him back to the police station. He was there for Parker. Years later, Meek became Parker’s DARE officer and a man he admired.
Meek has never stepped foot on The Rock, but his legacy lives through Parker.
As a third-year officer for the Kodiak Police Department, Parker models his DARE program after Meek’s teachings. Like the officer who helped him as a youngster, Parker has become a friendly face in the community. Parker’s passion is community policing, which was instilled in him from his first law enforcement job in Chapman, Kansas, at the age of 35.
A good day in uniform for Parker is when he helps an old lady cross the street or talks to kids instead of chasing bad guys and issuing citations.
“If I can put a smile on somebody’s face, I’ve done my job,” Parker said.
Parker is an introvert, but he transforms into a different persona, like Clark Kent and Superman, when the uniform goes on. The uniform is his cape. Armed with a degree in broadcast communications, Parker prides himself on his communication skills — he is KPD’s only crisis intervention officer. The skills he adopted to deescalate a situation can be traced back to his 16-year career in the retail industry that forced “the shy” Parker to interact with strangers.
After graduating from college, Parker was set to join the Air Force. He failed the pilot’s colorblind test, so he entered the retail business instead. (Don’t worry, he later tasted flying when he obtained his private pilot’s license.) He managed a Blockbuster in Oklahoma City for 12 years, then spent four years at a Russell Stover candy store in Kansas.
During his time in retail, he gained a wife — Tracy — and two boys — Isaac and Kaleb. Working in retail is demanding and hard on family life. Needing a career change, he applied to become a deputy for the local sheriff’s department. He had no law enforcement experience but banked on his leadership and people skills. Plus, becoming an officer was what he wanted to do from the age of 11.
“It was a shot in the dark,” he said.
He was hired, but it came at a cost — a $7.50 an hour pay cut. The family downsized from a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house to a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house.
“I knew that is what I needed to do,” Parker said. “Working in the retail industry takes a lot out of you. You are gone from home all the time and you start to see the effects of that with your family.”
Community policing was the backbone of Chapman’s sheriff’s department. Officers were required to spend 30 minutes in a school every shift and got in trouble if they did not wave to people passing by. This is where Parker learned the importance of policing in a small community.
“Just walking downtown, going into businesses — being a smile and showing that we are not the bad guy,” Parker said.
The family was looking for a change of scenery in 2016, so Tracy — an educator — was hired for a position with the Kodiak Island Borough School District. Tracy and the two boys moved to The Rock in August of that year. Parker visited the family in October and met with now-KPD Chief Tim Putney about a potential job. With KPD fully staffed, Parker returned to Kansas. Two months later, a position opened at KPD. Parker applied, and after a strenuous interview process, joined the force on May 3, 2017. While going through background checks, he relocated to the island and served as a substitute teacher for the school district.
It’s been a match from the beginning.
Parker wanted to build the department’s reputation up, so he brought with him the ideas of Shop with a Cop during the holiday season and Adventure through Vehicles — two popular events that positively showcase the department. His next goal is to start a “coffee with a cop” program. He — along with his wife — have also taken the responsibilities of organizing the Kodiak Special Olympics Torch Run. His youngest son is autistic.
“Just bringing different things like that into the community that was never here before makes me feel proud,” Parker said. “A lot of people won’t even know that my name is attached to it, but that is fine as long as it brings the department and the community together.”
Putney said Parker is one of his go-to officers when he needs to bounce ideas around.
“He is always willing to do anything the department needs,” Putney said.
The chief also noted how vital it is for his department to build a relationship with the community, and Parker has helped forge those bonds with residents.
“One of the most important reasons for having a DARE officer is to start building relationships with kids and teenagers,” Putney said. “That has literally meant the difference in solving cases or not being able to solve them — if somebody knows an officer personally, they are most likely to reach out to them if they are holding critical information.”
The chief also found out that Parker is one heck of a pingpong player. He referred to Parker as “semi-pro.” Soon after Parker arrived, he helped Putney move into a new house. That house came with a pingpong table.
“In between moving trips, we would play a little bit, and I used to think I was good, but he is definitely a lot better,” Putney said.
Parker’s athletic ability — he was a middle linebacker on his high school football team — also shows through on the lanes. He started bowling as a youth with his dad, who died in 2013 from ALS, and a month ago rolled his first 300 game and 700 series. Both numbers are milestones in bowling.
“Second to last strike, I noticed that I had the crowd behind me. As I stood there with the ball in hand, my whole body was shaking. My nerves kicked in, and I felt like I just stopped breathing,” said Parker about his perfecto. “When I went to throw the ball, I just whaled it down. I missed my mark, and I thought that was it. But the ball went to the opposite side of the head pin, and they all tumbled.”
Just recently, Parker has discovered another talent — photography.
He routinely made fun of photographers for putting themselves in harm’s way to snap the perfect photo; now he is the one searching for those unique angles. He didn’t show an interest in photography and photo editing until spending time in the lush Kodiak landscape. His favorite spot is Pasagshak.
He spent months studying the art of photography and now his Facebook profile is littered with fantastic wildlife and nature images — a photo of a fireweed with the glow of the sunset behind it went viral on several photography social media pages. He has had three different people from the Lower 48 turn his images into art.
“Any photo I finish, I am very proud of it,” Parker said. “I never know if it is going to be my best work of art, but I am proud of it. It is not until I post it and get feedback that I know how good or bad it is.”
As talented as Parker is at photography and bowling, he is recognized around town as Shane, the police officer. He wouldn’t have it any other way, though. It took him years to get here, but he doesn’t plan on leaving. He recently bought a three-bedroom, three-bathroom house.
“I just completely feel at home. I have a great support community, whether with bowling, photography or at the police department. It is one big happy family at the police department where you feel that brotherhood,” Parker said. “This is a place where I plan on calling a home forever.”