When he graduated from high school, Pineville police officer Shane Stewart knew he wanted a career in law enforcement. However, before he could pursue his dream, Stewart had to wait until he turned 21 to begin his journey. Therefore, in preparation for his future career, Stewart became a public safety dispatcher.
“I graduated from the last one-week class at DOCJT,” Stewart said.
After dispatching for three years, Stewart’s career goal was realized when he joined the Bell County Sheriff’s Office before joining the Pineville Police Department.”
Dispatching to Policing
Having served as a dispatcher for three years has helped Stewart in his law enforcement career.
“It’s one of those things where I’m blessed in a way because I got to experience being on the other side of that radio,” he said. “I know it’s frustrating sometimes when you’re out here on a traffic stop, and you want information real quick, and they’ve got a lot of stuff going on. I understand because I know what it is like to have a bunch of 911 calls come in at once and having EMS yelling at you or a fire department yelling at you wanting stuff. There’s a lot of stuff happening.”
Once he turned 21, Stewart said he jumped at the chance to join the ranks of law enforcement.
“Being a police officer was my plan from day one,” he said. “When I turned 21, I applied (with the BCSO) and was sent to the academy and graduated with Class 361. My desire to be a police officer never left. While I was dispatching, I went to school and got my associate’s degree in criminal justice.”
Pineville, a city in Bell County of about 1,700 residents, is nestled between a strip of land with the Cumberland River and Pine Mountain on either side. For Stewart, policing in his hometown was ideal.
“Pineville is home to me,” Stewart said. “I grew up here and played (sports), and I know the people. (It’s) challenging at times. Especially in a small town like Pineville, where everybody knows everybody. However, people understand that you have a job to do.”
Approach to Policing
When he first became a police officer, Stewart said he had a Superman mentality, and wanted to change the world.
“You think you’re bulletproof,” he said. “You want to go out and make a difference and change things.”
Soon, reality set in, and he modified his approach.
“You have to realize that you can’t change the world. If I can help one person during my shift, then I’ve changed their world,” Stewart said. “I can’t make this city, this county or our state better for every citizen that lives here. However, if I can help one person who I come into contact with, then what more can I ask for?”
On Jan. 10, 2008, Stewart’s career and life were altered when his former training officer and good friend Bell County Deputy Sean Pursifull died in the line-of-duty.
“The toughest call I went on was the night we lost Sean Pursifull,” he said. “He was the K-9 officer for the sheriff’s office. We had been best friends. He was my training officer at the sheriff’s office. That night, I was the only officer in the city, and he was the only deputy in the county.”
Two teenagers were running from the Kentucky State Police, heading into Pineville from Harlan. The teen driver slammed their vehicle into Pursifull’s cruiser, killing the deputy and his K-9, King.
“That is burned into my memory, my heart and my soul, and it is something that will never go away,” Stewart said. “It changed me as an officer, because like I said earlier, (police officers) think we’re Superman. However, to see what happened to Sean brought the reality that even in Pineville, there’s a possibility that I might not get to go home tonight. It changes the way you approach things. It was probably the most impactful moment of my career.”
During his career, Stewart has worked in many roles.
“I write tickets, but it’s not my favorite part of the job,” he admitted. “My years as a sheriff’s deputy probably has a lot to do with that.”
His greatest enjoyment came from doing detective work.
“I spent two years in the narcotics unit at the sheriff’s office, and I feel that is where I did my best work,” he said. “I made a lot of cases and helped a lot of people. That’s why I did it – to help the people. I didn’t do it because of the shift or the extra overtime, there are people in the community that can’t help themselves or neighbors, and I wanted to be the person who helped them. We made many cases and helped several people. That has been my favorite part of my career.”
However, Stewart’s greatest reward is serving his community and raising his family.
“(Policing) is a big part of my life,” he said. “My wife is a probation and parole officer, so our lives are not that different. She understands because she sees it, too.
My children understand (I’m a police officer), and they know what I do,” he said. “They’re proud of dad, but they worry about me at the same time. I try not to take (work) home because it will drive you crazy. When I am at home, I give that time to my family.”