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'It kind of sucks you in': BPD Captain Steve Kellams retires after 27 years



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Steve Kellams retired March 4 from his 30-year law enforcement career. Kellams began at IU in 1987 and became interested in law enforcement after hearing about the IU Police Academy. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

Steve Kellams said he had three feelings about retiring March 4 from his 30-year law enforcement career.

“You’re happy you did it,” he said. “You’re proud of what you did. But you’ll never do it again.”

Kellams, 50, said people are often surprised when he says he’s now retired and tell him they wish they could retire at his age.

“I wish I had a job where people didn’t try to kill me,” he joked.

In Indiana, police officers are eligible for retirement after 20 years.  

Kellams said he "blames" his dad in part for getting him into law enforcement.

When Kellams first started at IU in 1987, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He liked Indiana Jones and thought maybe he would do archeology.

After he heard about the IU Police Academy though, he decided to apply. His father was a reserve officer in Posey County, Indiana, where Kellams is from, so he had some understanding of the field.

He graduated from the academy in 1989 and worked as a part-time officer until applying for a position at Bloomington Police Department in 1991.

Because he wanted to take the BPD job right away, he never completed his degrees in anthropology and criminal justice but said he believes he would have ended up in the same place.

He planned to be at BPD for only three years and then wanted to move to a federal job, such as the FBI. He ended up staying at BPD for more than 27 years.

“It kind of sucks you in,” he said. “All of a sudden you turn around and you’re like ‘Wow, I’ve been here for a lot longer than three years.’”

When he first started as an officer, he worked the night shift, meaning he came to work at 9:30 p.m. and left at 6 a.m.

After 10 years of night shift patrol, he was promoted to sergeant and did night shift sergeant for four years, until finally switching to day shift for two years and afternoon shift for one year.

He said his wife of 20 years, Dina Kellams, and all spouses of police have to be flexible and understanding when it comes to the hours and dangers of the job.

“These officers don’t know if they are coming home, and there are not a whole lot of jobs like that,” he said.  

Dina Kellams said she is not much of a worrier and would always tell herself everything was going to be fine when her husband was on duty. She only worried about the mental toll the job can have on officers.

Dina said she was “tickled” when he started working more normal hours later in his career because that meant family time in the evenings.

Kellams then moved to the Detective Division in 2009, where he said he worked grueling hours but also had the most fun of his career.

“It’s the closest to TV you’ll ever see in law enforcement,” he said.

Even though he was not on night shift anymore, the work-life balance was still a challenge.

On his daughter Sabrina’s first day of school, he got off his shift just in time to see her off. Right after, he was called out on a case he had to work for three days straight.

After being a narcotics detective for three years, he became a general assignment detective sergeant for a year. He was in the Detective Division for six years total.

He was promoted to lieutenant after 21 years, and three years ago, he was asked to be captain.

While working up the ranks, he trained new officers and helped rewrite BPD’s training program. He won an officer of the year award for this work.

“I love teaching, and I love taking in the new officers,” he said.

He became involved in the National Association of Field Training Officers and was being asked to come to departments around the country to teach.

He traveled and led a few classes a year using his time off, and even started his own training business, FTO Solutions. He now contracts with Public Agency Training Council to schedule the classes.

He plans to teach training more now and hopes to teach 25 or 30 classes this year, he said.

Kellams now has time more time to watch his 14-year-old daughter's marching band as well as watch movies and read books

Dina Kellams said she feels people often forget police officers are real people, too.

“They have a family,” she said. “They have friends. They have hobbies.”

Kellams said he is proud of his work and is not sure what else he would have done as a career.  

“I am who I am today because of what I did,” he said.

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