October 30, 2009

Police department’s first woman captain retiring

by Pete Rosenbery

Kay Doan

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- After more than 29 years with the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Department of Public Safety, Capt. Kay W. Doan is preparing to leave the profession she always wanted to be part of.

For Doan, whose last day is Saturday, Oct. 31, the opportunity to be in law enforcement for nearly three decades is “as fulfilling a career as it could have possibly been.”

Doan is retiring as captain, the second-highest position within the department, and the first woman in the department’s history to hold the rank. As captain, she oversaw the department’s patrol division, investigations unit and telecommunications operations.

Doan’s goal, dating back to high school in Salem, was to be a police officer and help people.

Although few women were part of law enforcement at the time, Doan, a native of Salem, had no qualms about what she wanted to be even while in high school. She earned an associate degree from Olney Central College, and then a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice from SIUC in 1980.

“That was all I ever wanted to do,” Doan said. “I never thought I would rise through the ranks and retire as a captain. I always wanted to be a police officer. I liked the fact that it was something different every day, and I was able to work different shifts.”

Department of Public Safety Director Todd D. Sigler said law enforcement remains largely a male-dominated environment, but that Doan’s success, professionalism and leadership in the department are a credit to her.

“She’s been a role model for some of the other female officers as well as the male officers,” he said. “She is reliable and dependable, and a nice complement to my style and my areas of expertise.”

Catherine A. Hagler, the University’s executive director of administration, said she is “extremely honored” to work with Doan, whom Hagler said will be “sorely missed.”

“She has consistently proven herself to be professional, knowledgeable and to have the University’s overall best interest in every decision that she made,” Hagler said. “She represented the University and the Department of Public Safety well. It will be difficult to find someone with her qualities and expertise.”

Hagler also noted Doan’s success while working in a primarily male-dominated profession, which features unconventional hours and often times stressful conditions. If you asked Doan about it, the response will be “she was just doing her job,” Hagler said.

The University has come to “rely on her 29 years of expertise, historical knowledge, professionalism and her ability to remain calm in very stressful situations,” Hagler said. “She performs her duties in a humble manner. She possesses a great team spirit and is a great role model to those she supervises.”

Doan started her career at SIUC working as a telecommunications operator in August 1980, after starting as an extra-help telecommunicator in June 1980. She became a police officer in September 1983, a sergeant in September 1988, lieutenant in April 1989, and captain in December 2004. Doan also served as the department’s interim director on two different occasions.

When she was hired, the University already had five female police officers in the department, “which probably made it easier for me,” Doan said.

“The University was at the forefront of hiring female officers,” Doan said. “There were many cities that didn’t have female police officers.”

Doan believes most departments now realize that females can do the same jobs as male police officers.

The technological changes in law enforcement the past three decades are readily apparent. In-car computers have replaced hand-written or typewritten reports and Polaroid photos gave way to digital cameras and live-scan fingerprint machines.

But being an effective police officer still comes down to utilizing good investigative techniques, and “getting out and meeting the people who we serve,” Doan said.

She emphasizes the importance of officers developing relationships with faculty, staff and students through foot patrols in buildings and areas throughout campus. Being visible and accessible are important, and while feedback might not be immediate, foot patrols in the academic and housing areas are noticed, she said.

“It’s easy to do on a college campus,” she said. “People notice it and they appreciate it.”

Doan said when she was on patrol, enforcement was secondary “to getting out and walking the foot patrol and getting to know the people who work on campus.”

“If you get to know people who work on campus, you have a greater likelihood that they may share some information with you. You stop in and they may say, ‘Hey, I saw this going on.’ They may not pick up the telephone and call you.”

Doan, who lives in Carterville with her children Ryan and Lauren, concedes she’s leaving with mixed emotions. Some officers, including Sigler, Lt. Harold Tucker, and Officer David Jennings, have been with the department about as long as she has.

“I’m certainly going to miss the people I’ve worked with and I’m going to miss the job,” she said. “It’s been fun, rewarding and certainly something different happens every day. But I look forward to the extra time I have to spend with my children. It will afford me some extra time and they will get to do some things that they haven’t been able to do before because of my work schedule. I look forward to that.”