When Dennis Shaw began working as a patrol officer on April 16, 1979, he didn’t necessarily see himself sticking around for all that long.


When Dennis Shaw began working as a patrol officer on April 16, 1979, he didn’t necessarily see himself sticking around for all that long.
Yet on Thursday, when Shaw leaves the McPherson Law Enforcement Center as police chief for the last time, it will be more than 32 years and five months since he first began protecting the city’s streets.
While Shaw found himself growing up as a military child, relocating from base to base across the world, he returned regularly to McPherson, his mother’s hometown. One such trip to the area resulted in him finding work here, and soon thereafter he entered the city’s police force as a patrol officer.
Shaw began working his way up through the ranks of the McPherson Police Department. Almost seven years after joining the force, he was promoted to detective sergeant, and only three years later was elevated to lieutenant juvenile officer in 1989. In another six years, he became the second in command, being promoted to assistant chief on April 3, 1995, serving directly under current city commissioner Michael Alkire. And on Dec. 2, 2003, following the retirement of Alkire, Shaw assumed command as chief of police.
His rise to the top of the department was not through connections or fast talking, but instead through hard work. Shaw contributed to multiple departmental initiatives, leading the way both within McPherson law enforcement and through area agencies. He served as co-coordinator for Crime Stoppers for almost a decade, helping to secure the assistance of the community in fighting crime. Shaw also worked to strengthen McPherson through rape prevention and child safety talks.
In fact, it was largely through his involvement in youth initiatives that Shaw became an instantly recognizable face in the community, beginning with his appointment at McPherson County’s first DARE officer in 1989. Ten years later in 1999, he assisted community leaders in creating the McPherson and Harvey County Juvenile Justice System in an attempt to prevent youths from repeatedly turning to crime. Today, Shaw continues to be an advocate for area youth through his service as a member of the McPherson YMCA’s Executive Board
Shaw came to represent the McPherson Police Department not only to those in the community but to other law enforcement agencies in the state, and well before becoming McPherson’s Chief of Police. In 1984 he began running in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, an annual fundraising event that benefits Special Olympics, in McPherson County. Since his first run, he has gone on to be the state’s top fundraiser for the event twice and has even gone on to represent Kansas’ police officers in the International Special Olympics Torch Run in China, running the torch up the Great Wall in full uniform.
As the years passed, Shaw became increasingly active in McPherson at large, helping area residents not only through law enforcement but also community involvement. He was brought to serve as chairman of the McPherson Convention and Visitors Bureau on multiple occasions and was largely responsible for planning and implementing the McPherson Animal Shelter. Shaw’s efforts have long been acknowledged as critical to the well-being of the area, and in 1997, he received the McPherson County Bob Sisson Award for his volunteer work.
His almost 33.5 years with the McPherson Police Department were honored at a reception Tuesday, where dozens of visitors crammed into a small room in the bottom of the Law Enforcement Center to thank him for his work. There he was recognized as an advocate not only for his department and its employees, but the safety of the residents of McPherson. Among gifts and letters of thanks was a personal message from Gov. Sam Brownback praising his work on the force.
Yet perhaps the kindest words of the event came from McPherson Fire Chief Jeff Deal, who heralded Shaw “not only as a mentor, but a friend.”
“With the caliber of a person like Chief Shaw,” he said, “you don’t have to be around him long to understand the kind of man he really is.”
While Shaw may be unemployed for a full day on Friday, his time away from work will be short lived. He will take a position as adviser and recruiter for Central Christian College’s new criminal justice online degree completion program. It will take him to police departments and events across the region, and Shaw looks forward to helping law enforcement, who often leave the military or college short of finishing their degrees, get their diplomas.