Director, Police Training Institute, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Major: Criminal Justice
Class Year: 1975
Although she ranked near the top in the Champaign County Sheriff’s exam, Kris was told she couldn’t fulfill her desire to become a deputy sheriff because she was a woman.
“They told me they wouldn’t hire me because I was female. It was the early 1970s, and only men were officers.”
Not willing to give up on the goal, she decided to get a criminal justice degree at Parkland College and apply again for the position after graduation.
“The sheriff suggested that, if I was serious about this, I should come to Parkland College to get the training I needed. I was maybe the second woman ever in any of those classrooms.”
At Parkland, (former) Criminal Justice program Coordinator Jim Whetstone’s policy of giving women equal time in the classroom immediately set a tone of respect towards this new, non-traditional student.
“Jim did an amazing job, not only for me, but for all minorities who wanted to get in this career. He treated me with the same dignity and respect as every male officer in the room.”
Kris was hired as a University of Illinois police patrol officer in 1977, rising up the ranks over the years. She became the UIUC’s assistant chief of police in 2002 and interim chief in 2005. Kris also earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Eastern Illinois University and received leadership and specialized law enforcement training as a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
As director of the UI Police Training Institute, the largest basic law enforcement academy in Illinois, Kris oversees a staff that annually provides 600+ new officers with basic training, 300+ correctional officers with advanced training, and another 200+ with specialized courses. “I wanted to do more than just put people in jail. Parkland gave me true education about what law enforcement is all about.”
Kris keeps in touch with Whetstone throughout the years, who she feels “shares my joy in my career.” She is also a lifelong learner. “Whenever I needed that boost educationally, I would go back to Parkland and find that course that would meet my needs.”