Officers find ways to balance work and family

Suzi Starheim

Officers work to enforce rules — both on campus and at home.


Enforcing laws on campus and enforcing rules at home for children are two very different modes of enforcement that several officers with the Kent State Police Department have to deal with daily.


Police Lt. William Buckbee is one of those officers.


Buckbee has been working for the Kent State Police Department for nearly 28 years — 15 of those years as a lieutenant.


Buckbee said he has a 19-year-old son who attends Kent State, and 9- and 7-year-old daughters.


“I was a cop when my daughters were born, but I have now had my desk job as a lieutenant for a while,” Buckbee said. “My son felt the effects of me being an officer more than my young daughters did.”


Buckbee said while other officers have a large conflict between being on patrol and taking care of family, being a lieutenant doesn’t render this conflict.


“My schedule is much closer to the 9-to-5 schedule now,” he said. “Sometimes there are conflicts, but nothing like for the police officers who wear uniforms every day.”


Buckbee said he remembers the days when he had to miss the occasional soccer game or school play to work a shift.


Making it work


Police officer Joshua Simms said he has had to balance family and being an officer for Kent State for the past 11 years of his career.


Simms has two children — an 8-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter.


“My shift preferences are midnight or the afternoon shift because my wife has a full-time job as well,” Simms said. “My wife takes care of mornings and getting the kids ready for school, and I handle picking up the kids off the bus.”


Simms said his, and his wife’s, parents have also helped out with taking care of his kids a lot. “Having family help lessens the blow on the wallet if you would ever have to use daycare,” Simms said.


Police officer Michquel Penn said she feels the effects of being an officer and a parent as well, having worked as an officer for Kent State for a little more than three years.


“I am a single mom with a 15-year-old son,” Penn said. “Being an officer is hard for me to turn off when I am off-duty.”


Penn said she often finds herself acting as an officer would outside of her jurisdiction.


“I can just name so many different times where I have been off-duty, totally out of my area of jurisdiction, and I have still acted on my reactions as an officer,” Penn said. “I think that is just the police officer in me.”


Overall, Penn said being a police officer gives her and her son security at home, and being a mother helps her in dealing with college students.


“I think the home life and being a parent helps when dealing with people here sometimes, just because you can kinda get into the knowing that maybe somebody is younger and maybe they weren’t taught this,” Penn said. “You find yourself in situations where you are almost giving someone some advice that they just didn’t get before.”


“Mom, dad is Superman.”


Simms said while the novelty of having a police officer for a father has worn off for his children, they do still find several aspects fascinating.


“My kids think that I should just show my badge all the time, and my son thinks I should be able to show my badge and arrest someone at will,” Simms said. “If we are driving, and he thinks I am speeding, he always questions me.”


Simms said his kids think being at the station is interesting, and they like to be handcuffed and put into the back of the police car.


While his daughters don’t find his being an officer a big deal, Buckbee said there was a time when seeing him in uniform was fascinating.


“My daughter was two years old when she first saw me in uniform, and she said ‘Mom, Dad is Superman,’” Buckbee said. “I was just going to work at a football game.”


Penn said along with the future tuition reimbursement she can get for her son, being a police officer did have a big impact on his childhood.


“When he was younger, he was amazed by my being a cop, but now he is just the cop’s kid and doesn’t make a big fuss of it anymore like when he was younger,” Penn said. “He used to tell me ‘Mom, you look like you’re on cops’ and ‘Mom, you’re overly considerate’.”


Buckbee said working the midnight shift is much easier when you are a younger officer.


“I now think back on the midnight shift with dread,” Buckbee said. “They don’t want a gray-haired person working out on patrol on the midnight shift.”


Along with just working odd shifts, he said holidays can always be an issue, too.


“Police are here 24/7 no matter what,” he said. “There was a time when I had to work Christmas.”


Buckbee said officers try to help out on shifts when there are conflicts.


“We are family oriented, so we try to accommodate officers, so that they can make it to family birthday parties and other events,” he said. “The real challenge for an officer is time. Luckily for my kids, most of those challenges are gone.”


Contact academics reporter Suzi Starheim at [email protected].