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Paducah police force paying tribute to retiring leaders

BY CARRIE DILLARD cdillard@paducahsun.com

The Paducah Police will celebrate more than 80 years of service to the community this evening as it hosts a retirement party for four leaders in the department.

Effective today, Capt. Shawn Maxie, Det. Rob Estes, Capt. Mark Roberts and Capt. Don Hodgson are retired.

According to Police Chief Brandon Barnhill, while it is fairly rare for four veteran officers to retire at the same time, it's not uncommon in law enforcement.

"In many instances, you see officers hired in groups, and in turn, they often retire in groups," Barnhill stated.

Maxie, Hodgson and Estes all joined the Paducah Police Department in the fall of 1994. Roberts was already on the force, having started in November 1992.

All have served as instructors and commanders of their own units, leaving some big shoes to fill.

Capt. Shawn Maxie

Capt. Maxie is most proud of his time spent with the honor guard, established about four years ago.

Although he was never turned down by volunteers when he asked them to serve, Maxie said the department now has a dedicated team of individuals who serve as ceremonial guard for a retiree who has passed away or for a Kentucky officer killed in the line of duty.

There are approximately seven members, Maxie said, all who have attended special training to become a part of the honor guard.

Especially in times of a line-of-duty death, Maxie believes showing support for the family, fellow officers and community is of the utmost importance.

"If it was a felonious act, it shows the criminal that we're going to stand as one," he said. "Luckily, we don't have that many. But we had two (deaths) in the state last year" - McCracken County Deputy Chad Shaw and Bardstown Officer Jason Ellis.

During his 20 years with the Paducah department, Maxie taught D.A.R.E. at Clark and Cooper Whiteside elementary schools, was a member of the drug unit and SWAT team, and an instructor of defensive tactics. 

"We're one of the best trained departments in this area," Maxie said.

Training above and beyond the state mandate helps "give officers the confidence to handle a situation when it happens," he added.

Although retirement is "bittersweet," Maxie said it is time for him to de-stress and have a little "R&R" time.

Det. Rob Estes

"We are the state template for training," Estes said, which as the department's training officer gives him much to be proud of.

Under the leadership of former chief Randy Bratton, a dedicated training officer was named. Former chief James Berry and current Chief Brandon Barnhill have each expanded the training program, making it what it is today, Estes said.

"It's exciting as a training officer when you have a chief who backs you," he said, "because everything you do every day (as an officer) is a direct result of your training and discipline."

Every officer at Paducah completes 120 training hours per year; the state requires 40 hours per year.

"Our standards are extremely high," Estes said.

During his 20 years with the Paducah department, Estes was a member of the Community-Oriented Policing unit, Drug Division, and served as acting sergeant and detective with the Criminal Investigations Division. He taught D.A.R.E. at Cooper Whiteside and was an instructor in driving and firearms.

Estes praised the officers who were willing became instructors in their discipline.

"They receive no special pay; their hours have to flex; they get no extra time off," he said, but they did it for the betterment of all.

"Our instructors are held at a higher standard. There is so much responsibility with this job," Estes said. "Without giving a person standards and expectations, they can't succeed."

In retirement, he plans on spending time with his family - wife April and children Alyson, Seth and Audrey - and teaching  firearms training to civilians.

Capt. Mark Roberts

Roberts is proud that the department believes in the importance of training, especially in leadership roles.

"The department has had high standards in training and professionalism in its officers. Our leadership development is second to none," he said.

"It's time to move on to make room for others to move up," Roberts added. "This department has a lot of potential."

Having also served at the Richmond, Virginia, Bureau of Police and the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana, Roberts retires with 26-plus years of law enforcement experience.

Roberts served as supervisor of the Paducah K-9 program, a legacy of which he is most proud.

"There wasn't a program in Paducah before I came," he said.

Roberts was a K-9 handler in Virginia. His Paducah K-9 partner, Bram, who retired in 2005, was with him for eight years.

"I spent the most time with Bram," he said. "Sometimes I saw him more than I saw my kids."

As supervisor, Roberts helped increase the number of teams to three and developed high standards of training for K-9 units.

In addition to participating in 16 hours of in-house training each month, each unit has national certification by the North American Police Work Dog Association and the Vohne Liche Kennels, a K-9 training facility in Denver, Indiana.

During his time at Paducah, Roberts also served as a operator in the SWAT team, sergeant in charge of drug and vice enforcement, and as an instructor for driver's training.

In retirement, he's eager to spend more time with family, including his grandson and a second grandchild on the way.

Capt. Don Hodgson

For Capt. Hodgson, becoming a police officer was a dream come true.

"It was always my dream of being a police officer and a pilot when I was a little boy," he said.

Hodgson will try his second dream career starting Monday, as he has taken a job with Seaport Airlines as a commercial pilot.

Hodgson served previously in law enforcement as a part-time officer for Lincoln and Williamstown, Massachusetts.

"The job brought me here," he said. "After I graduated from college, I sent resumes across the country."

Since moving to Paducah, he has put down roots and started a family. In retirement, Hodgson also looks forward to spending time with his wife, Linda, and two sons, Dylan and Conner.

During his time at Paducah, Hodgson is most proud of his work with the traffic unit and the "Heads Up Don't Be In-TEXT-icated" campaign, in partnership with the Coltharp family.

Hodgson served as the trafficking commander.

While it is difficult to quantify the number of accidents or injuries that didn't happen because of increased traffic patrols, Hodgson hopes that he played a role in making Paducah roads safer for the community.

"We recently had a serious wreck and one of guys who was hurt was wearing his seat belt. We looked and he had (an earlier) ticket for being without his seat belt. Yes, he was injured, but it might have been much worse without that seat belt. I wondered, was he wearing that seat belt because of the traffic unit? You just don't ever know if someone has been saved because of something you've done."

Hodgson said since the traffic unit began in 2012, the overall number of collisions has decreased by 5 percent and the number of injury collisions have decreased by 20 percent.

In addition, Hodgson was an instructor in defensive tactics and taught D.A.R.E. at Morgan Elementary.

"Each of these individuals retiring have served this community, with unblemished and unparalleled service to its citizens," Barnhill said. "Each of these individuals has set the example both personally and professionally. Our community owes a debt of gratitude to each of them for their service."

The reception - open to the public - will be held from 5-6:30 p.m. today in the Paducah Police Department Training Room.

Also effective today, Barnhill announced the promotions of Capt. George Johnson, Capt. Wes Kimbler and Sgt. Matt Smith, who are stepping up to assume leadership responsibilities. Barnhill also expects two new recruits will graduate today from the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice in Richmond and begin their duties as patrol officers.

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