Mo. cop earns honors for being 24-hour good guy
By Susan Weich ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
St. Charles police Officer Michael Shipley doesn't stop being the good guy when he's off duty.
His volunteer work with area youths caught the eye of his superiors and led to his nomination as Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Shipley will receive the award at the St. Charles Crime Stopper's 13th annual recognition dinner Thursday. Shipley's supervisor, Lt. Gary Schwendemann, said that work-wise, many officers are worthy of recognition.
"But this is Crime Stoppers, and Officer Shipley, through his involvement with football, basketball and boxing, has contact with a lot of kids who are headed for trouble," he said. "Many of them don't have a male role model in their lives. Without his help, some of these kids might turn to a life of crime and never be able to turn themselves back around."
Shipley, 36, grew up in Columbus, Ind., where he says he sometimes assisted his late father with volunteer work for a local children's home. After high school, he entered the Army and served as military police officer in Panama, Kenya and Saudi Arabia.
Shipley began his career with the St. Charles Police Department in January 1992 and has served the majority of the time in the patrol division, working the midnight shift. Shipley has received 23 letters of commendation for his work on a variety of cases. He previously has been named officer of the year by other local organizations.
About eight years ago, Shipley became involved in the St. Charles Boxing Club, a nonprofit amateur boxing gym at the corner of Randolph and Second streets.
"I've always been a fan of boxing; my uncle ran a boxing club in my hometown," Shipley said. "So I went to a few boxing matches, met up with some people, started working out myself and hanging around the gym. Next thing I knew I was setting up fights and training kids."
One of Shipley's fighters, Brandon Baue, has won two Golden Glove titles and the Missouri State Championship. He said he has relied on Shipley in and out of the ring.
One time when Baue fought in a USA qualifying tournament, Shipley went along, even though he wasn't the official coach of the group. Baue said he felt more comfortable with Shipley in his corner.
When one of Baue's closest friends committed suicide, Shipley was there for him.
"I was real depressed, and he was calling and talking to me about it every day," Baue said. "He kept asking me how I was doing."
Shipley said his boxers have won nine Golden Glove championships, but it's the successes in other parts of the boxers' lives that matter most to him.
For instance, he requires all of the fighters to stay in school and get good grades.
"I tell them that you have to be smart to box," he said. "I tell them I can't have a bunch of dummies in here. You've got to show me that you're not."
Jim Howell, president of the North County Athletic Association, which oversees the gym, said he has been amazed by Shipley's commitment. He can be found at the gym Monday through Thursday, from about 5 to 8 p.m.
"For the job he's got with the Police Department, you'd think he wouldn't want to fool around with a bunch of kids in his off time, but he really is doing a fine job," he said. "He tries to help them establish a life for themselves. It ain't just being a boxer; it's all about growing up and being a valuable person to society."
Shipley also helps young people he sees on his regular patrol of the Powell Terrace neighborhood.
He said when he was talking to the kids in the neighborhood about staying in school, he noticed some of them looked a little shaggy. They told him they couldn't afford haircuts.
"I've always been good at cutting hair, so I'd go up there quite a bit at the end of the summer so they'd be looking good for the first day of school," he said.
Shipley said his wife, Kathy, also does a lot of work with young people, and the two of them adopted a daughter -- Angel -- two years ago. Angel had been in the protective custody of the state.
"My wife was adopted, and she felt like she got a really good family, so she wanted to return the favor," he said.
The couple also have two sons, Nate and Malik.
Police Chief Tim Swope said Shipley is the type of police officer every chief wants in his department.
"Whenever you can have employees who are part of the community like that, it serves everyone well," Swope said. "He certainly has a personal stake in how St. Charles continues to prosper."
Shipley said he is honored by the award and humbled by all of the attention and kind words.
"We have some fantastic police officers in this department," Shipley said. "If I was the one choosing, I would pick them way ahead of me."
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