Instead of spending nights in the library studying for class, one University of Tennessee student spends his nights patrolling the streets of Knoxville, Tenn., as a police officer.
Brandon Shelley spends his day as a student on the UT campus; however in the evening he is Police Officer Shelley with the Knoxville Police Department.
Shelley, 25, is a junior political science major with a concentration in public administration. Not only is he a student during the day and police officer at night, he is also a part of the University of Tennessee ice hockey team.
“To be honest with you, if I was four or five years younger, I probably wouldn’t be able to do it. That’s because I didn’t have the discipline then that I do now as far as taking care of my priorities,” Shelley said.
His number one priority is work, then school and then hockey. Shelley says it takes a lot of time management in order to get through the week. He has to plan each hour of his day well in advance.
“It’s tough, but I manage,” he said.
Shelley’s mother influenced his decision to become a police officer. She worked as a secretary for the Portland, Oregon, Police Department, so he grew up around the police station and atmosphere.
To become a member of the Knoxville Police Department Shelley had to go through Knoxville’s police academy, which lasted just short of six months. After getting through police academy, he had to complete a field-training program where he had to ride around with a veteran officer and get extra training on the job, which lasted four months. Finally, after approximately 10 months, Shelley was an official member of the Knoxville Police Department.
Police Officer Shelley goes to class during the day and then after school heads straight to work until 2 a.m. Tuesday through Friday. Somewhere in between school and work he manages to get to hockey practice during the week and to the games on the weekends.
“It’s a challenge. I like challenges…and when I get done it’s going to be satisfying that I accomplished all that,” Shelley said.
Being a police officer comes with many challenges. Shelley is faced with being a problem solver, a social worker, a politician and a good decision maker, often all at once.
“The biggest one, probably, is the problem solving aspect of it,” Shelley said. “Imagine going into a complete stranger’s life to solve his or her problem that took years to deteriorate to the point where they had to call the police, and have to try to work with them and try to fix as much of the problem as possible. A lot of the times, the results that they get, they don’t see fitting [the problem] and it’s tough trying to get through to people that, you know, you’re doing the best you can with what you have to work with to help them out.”
After earning his degree, Shelley plans on keeping his options open by staying in Knoxville as a police officer and moving up in the ranks, which will help him apply for a federal job later on.
“When I retire from whatever I end up doing, I do want to run and get into politics. I want to eventually, way down the road, be like maybe a senator or something — probably not a U.S. senator, probably a state senator,” Shelley said.
Even with a busy schedule, Shelley is able to relax and have fun by playing on the UT club ice hockey team. Although he may be having fun, he doesn’t take playing hockey lightly.
“Shelley is definitely someone you can look up to when you look at his work ethics and the way he handles himself on and off the ice or on the job,” freshman forward on the UT ice hockey team Kyle Carter said.
“He’s out there [on the ice] giving it 110% and you can’t say that about a lot of the guys out there that are better than him, but he always does his best,” senior forward, president and captain of the UT ice hockey team Scott Andrews said.
For those students who work full-time while going to school full-time, it can be hard to meet the demands of both. Balancing school and work has been particularly difficult for Officer Shelley.
“It’s hard because you have to balance, kind of, two different lives,” Shelley said.
Certainly, the life of a full time student, concerned with football games and weekend plans, contrasts starkly with his role as a police officer, where he may be required to face life and death situations on any given evening. Shelley admitted that when he is in the “student” role, trying to blend in with other UT students, “it’s hard to turn off thinking like a police officer, particularly after having seen the Virginia Tech crime scene photos."