After nearly two decades in law enforcement, Shawn Addley is ready to pass along his extensive experience and knowledge to the next generation of peace officers.
When Addley joined the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office in 2005, he was eager to make a positive difference in his community. He found the job rewarding and challenging, and he enjoyed the fact that he could help and serve others every single day. Over nearly two decades, Shawn gained a wealth of valuable expertise that he was eager to pass down to the next generation of law enforcement officers.
That’s when a new position opened — director of the Utah State University Eastern Peace Officer Academy.
Shawn saw an opportunity to inspire and motivate young people to pursue careers in law enforcement. He hopes to show them how rewarding and fulfilling this path can be and help them develop the skills and knowledge needed to positively impact their communities.
“There are definitely ups and downs, and there are things that are hard and things that you may not like, but it's a fascinating job, honestly, and a great career,” Addley said. “I wouldn't change it for anything.”
The USU Peace Officer Academy is a satellite of the State of Utah’s Peace Officer Standards and Training program, teaching the basic techniques students need to gain employment with Utah law enforcement agencies. The program’s instructors are professionals who instruct cadets on topics including criminal law, firearms, community relations, and defensive tactics.
Students in USU’s academy benefit from the program combining the strengths of the university’s career and technical education and criminal justice programs. If graduates of the program decide to pursue more education, credits earned with the academy can be the start of “stacking” credits to earn other certificates or degrees.
Perhaps now more than ever, properly trained law enforcement officers have vital roles to play. Policing is at a crossroads, and Addley is not blind to the challenges facing people in law enforcement today. With increased scrutiny of police conduct and growing demand for accountability, he sees opportunities to redefine relationships with community members and build trust. New cadets are at the heart of this transformation.
“We talk to a lot of people about the changes they would like to see in law enforcement,” Addley said. “And what I tell the young kids is, if you want to see it change, then you need to be a part of it.”
This attitude is a noticeable shift in law enforcement compared to when Addley started nearly 20 years ago. The dynamic of policing has evolved from merely enforcing the rules to getting down to the root of issues faced by community members and trying to understand what they’re going through. Addley describes it as the “social work” component of law enforcement.
“I can’t stress enough how much that is a benefit, not only to us in law enforcement but also to the community,” he said. “I could have an encounter with someone who’s intoxicated, but why did they start drinking today? Are they dealing with a job loss or divorce? Those things matter. And as long as we can keep striving to understand that, we’re going to keep building relationships with our communities.”
Addley emphasizes that there are “endless opportunities” in the field of law enforcement. He has become a certified hazmat technician and a volunteer firefighter. He has also worked with SWAT teams and was honored as Utah’s Deputy Sheriff of the Year in 2019 for his excellent police work, which included saving a father and son from roadside carbon dioxide poisoning. Though his new position as director requires much of his time, he still works as an officer.
“Since I became involved in law enforcement, it has been my life,” Addley said. “I try to go to as much training as I can to learn as many aspects of law enforcement as possible and try to reach out and positively impact as many people as I can.”
There is enormous demand for law enforcement throughout the state, and training at USU Eastern is a good choice for future officers who want to be prepared for the realities of working in the field.
The USU Eastern academy has a unique relationship with local law enforcement agencies, allowing instructors to provide training that aligns with each agency's specific needs. Training in small, rural towns differs from training to serve in big cities on the Wasatch Front. Cadets will deal with unique challenges and limited resources if they choose to stay and build careers locally. Some agencies have even provided the academy with equipment such as patrol vehicles and body cameras to provide cadets with hands-on experiences with policing and technology.
“By the time they graduate, the cadets are ready to go on the road and operate their vehicle,” Addley said. “And equipment-wise, they will be prepared and ready to go. Basically, they’ll be able to hit the ground running.”
While firearms proficiency and legal knowledge are important, the academy also strongly emphasizes interpersonal skills, de-escalation techniques, and community engagement. Addley wants the cadets to be well-rounded individuals who can adapt to the diverse needs of the communities they serve. The USU Peace Officer Academy has virtual reality simulation training, where cadets practice high-stress situations without serious consequences, and training with live actors to help get that personal feel.
Cadets spend five hours at the academy each evening, Monday through Friday, and work a shift with area law enforcement officers. Supervising officers often incorporate what cadets are learning at the academy into their work shifts. This allows them to experience real-life scenarios directly after learning about them in the classroom.
Addley views his job as not just training future peace officers, but also shaping community leaders who will contribute to a safer, more connected society.
“If you're not connected with your community, you won't be a stakeholder,” Addley said. “You won’t have the passion. You're not going to really care what the outcomes are. However, connecting with your community, caring about your behavior towards others, and ultimately, you will have a sense of pride in how you handle your interactions with people.”
Addley enjoys being an academy director because he gets to work with cadets, teach classes, and share his experiences. He believes he is set up for success because of the foundation his predecessor, Scott Henry, had already established. Currently, he is seeking ways to expand the academy to better serve students. He is considering offering a daytime academy to train more cadets and potentially providing dispatch training as well.
“I may be biased, but I think it’s the best law enforcement academy in the state,” he said. “USU is very cost-effective, we have connections with local agencies, and our instructors are passionate about what they teach. This is a great career route to choose.”
With every decision he makes, Addley demonstrates his passion for shaping the future of law enforcement and his commitment to preparing the next generation of peace officers for the evolving challenges of the 21st century. His vision for the Utah State University Eastern Peace Officer Academy reflects a commitment to equipping cadets with not only the skills to enforce the law but also the compassion to understand the communities they serve.
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