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3rd-generation officer chases lifelong dream

Staff writer

Zach Hudlin always knew he wanted to be a police officer.

Specifically, he wanted to be a law officer in Marion County, where his roots run deep.

His grandfather, Don Keazer, served the county for 35 years in law enforcement, first as Marion’s city police chief and then as a transport deputy for the sheriff’s office.

His father, Roger Hudlin, was also a Marion city police officer.

And Loretta Keazer, Hudlin’s grandmother, was a dispatcher for 50 years.

“Dad was a cop, grandpa was a cop, grandma was a dispatcher,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to do.”

After receiving an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Butler Community College by taking classes in criminal justice for fun, Hudlin got serious about his goal of becoming a law officer.

He tackled a variety of jobs that he hoped would gain him experience.

The first stepping stone to law enforcement was a position as a corrections officer at the county jail. He worked part-time as a law officer in Peabody and then Goessel before joining Marion’s city police department in August.

He started basic training at Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in January and was five weeks away from graduating when the class was dismissed because of statewide shutdowns in response to COVID-19.

“Luckily, the majority of the classroom stuff was done,” he said.

The 265th training class returned in May to finish and graduated July 17.

“We were the longest class in the history of the academy,” he said.

Hudlin said four years of experience prepared him well for academy tests over procedure, but mock scenarios were a challenge.

“Probably the thing I learned the most is officer safety,” he said. “And I knew going into it that mine’s not very good, because I’m too trusting of people.”

A simulated traffic stop at the academy could offer some nasty surprises.

“We had a couple where as soon as you get out of your car they start charging at you,” he said. “They’ve got a weapon and they are ready to fight. You have to know what to do in that.”

Hudlin works a 12-hour shift from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Aaron Slater, handler for Marion’s police dog, Blue, is on patrol on nights he is off duty.

“I wasn’t entirely sure how much I was going to like it because I have never worked nights before, but I love it,” he said.

A typical shift involves a lot of driving and judgment calls.

“Last night, right out of the gate, I had a call for a runaway,” Hudlin said. “It was a 19-year-old on the autism spectrum. His mom said he was upset so he left.”

Hudlin found the young man walking home. The issue settled, he “ran radar” on US-56 until he was summoned to a noise complaint.

“The kids hanging out on Main St. were being really loud, and someone in the Elgin could hear them,” he said.

The one lesson he has taken to heart in his short career as an officer — learn how to treat people.

“There’s a lot of people that are in this business for the wrong reasons,” he said. “You get in it to help people. That’s really what it’s about.”

Last modified Aug. 5, 2020

 

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