SPD hires four new officers, including two Seymour graduates

The Seymour Police Department recently has added four new officers to its ranks, including the city’s second woman in blue.

Former SPD dispatcher Kayla Griffin was sworn into her new position along with officers Stuart Bryan and Anthony Desender during a ceremony Dec. 30 at the police station. Bradley Jay was hired in November.

Griffin and Desender are both graduates of Seymour High School but have taken different paths to get where they are today.

A change in plans

For the past year, Griffin, 22, has worked as a dispatcher and continues to fill that role as needed.

Her interest in law enforcement started in high school with an internship at SPD, she said.

“I started upstairs with the detectives,” she said. “I was in forensic science. That’s what I wanted to do originally. So I was learning how to photograph crime scenes, do fingerprinting, that kind of stuff.”

One day, the detectives were out, so Griffin had the opportunity to go out on the road for a ridealong with an officer. That’s when she changed her mind about going into forensics.

“I really liked it, and I started to do more ridealongs,” she said. “I realized I wanted to be out on the road and in the public interacting with people.”

Her decision was solidified after touring the Indiana State Crime Scene Lab in Indianapolis and realizing she didn’t want to be in a lab all day.

After graduating from SHS in 2017, she attended Eastern Kentucky University and earned a Bachelor of Science in homeland security.

“I learned about counterterrorism and intelligence-led policing, how to gather intelligence and we did security management operations, which is doing security detail plans,” she said.

For one exercise, President Donald Trump visited the college, and her class devised a detailed security plan of how to get him from the airport to the school.

“That was really cool,” she said.

In her first time applying for an officer’s position in January 2020, Griffin said she failed the physical fitness test because she wasn’t able to do the required number of pushups in the allotted time.

A week or two after, the dispatch position opened up, so she took that instead.

“I was fresh out of college and needed a job,” she said.

As a dispatcher, she got to know the officers even better, and they helped her with her physical training so she was able to pass the pushups the next time around.

Although she’s looking forward to a career as an officer, Griffin said she has loved being a dispatcher and will continue to use the skills she has learned from that position going forward. She will attend the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in March.

“I feel like I’m a people person, a logical person and I understand both sides of the job,” she said. “You get used to talking to people, and I think that will help translate to being on the road. I will still have to talk to people in high-stress situations.”

As for being only the second woman on the force along with Sgt. Crystal Schapson, Griffin said she hopes she can inspire other young women to take an interest in law enforcement.

“I think it will help open doors for other females, especially in a smaller town, because you don’t see that a whole lot,” she said.

Leaving his legacy

As a 2007 graduate of SHS, Desender, now 32, was known for his time on the Owls’ football team.

After graduating, he attended Anderson University, where he also played football, but a major injury ended his athletic career. Not knowing what to do, Desender joined the U.S. Army, where he would spend 10½ years active duty.

His military experience was a natural segue into law enforcement.

“It’s the same type of environment in a lot of aspects,” he said. “You’re kind of doing things on an individual basis to a certain extent, but you’re still part of a team, serving the same purpose. You all have a common goal at the end of the day.”

Having had the opportunity to serve the U.S. on a global scale, Desender decided he wanted to continue to serve but do so on a smaller scale by serving his community.

“The majority of what I’ve learned throughout my military career is very easily transferred to law enforcement,” he said. “So I think it helps me in a lot of ways.”

He also has learned through his time in the military how to adapt to different situations, another skill that will be useful when he’s on patrol.

Desender said it’s nice to be back in such a structured and disciplined environment.

“When I got out of the military, I felt pretty lost there for a while,” he said. “I was a financial adviser for a time but knew that wasn’t me. I didn’t feel the fulfillment that I did when I was in the Army.”

Being in the Army literally changed his life for the better, he added.

“You’re forced to grow up at an accelerated level,” he said. “You learn how to troubleshoot and solve problems on your own. When you’re in the military, mommy and daddy aren’t there to take care of you anymore.”

His last three years in the Army, Desender was a drill sergeant, where he was in charge of 60 different soldiers every 10 weeks. It was a role from which he learned and grew the most, he said.

Because of his experiences, Desender said he brings a high level of discipline, attention to detail, follow-through, patience, effective communication, respect and integrity to his new job.

Although he doesn’t know when he will be able to attend the police academy, Desender said he is excited about the opportunity.

In the meantime, he will train with SPD officers, learning emergency vehicle operations, computer systems and how to file reports, investigations, dispatch, ridealongs and other areas.

“It’s kind of like the pre-K of law enforcement,” he said. “I’m learning my ABC’s and 123’s first before I actually get to go to academy. I think that will help me out a lot.”

As an officer, he is looking forward to changing people’s lives in a positive way and being a role model.

“For me, a lot of it is about legacy,” he said. “I want to be able to leave a good legacy behind. I want to leave the world a better place than what it was when I entered it. That’s what’s important to me.”

Professional wrestler turned cop

Jay, 40, is originally from Lemont, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.

His desire to serve and protect has been around for as long as he can remember, he said, inspired by family members and friends who are police and firefighters.

“I have a protective nature about myself along with a natural curiosity to dig deeper and understand how and why things happen,” he said. “So I think police work fits natural talents and abilities I possess.”

Growing up in a middle class home, Jay said he learned the importance of a strong work ethic and moral values.

“Do unto others as you’d have done to you, thinking before I act and setting an example are just a few that ring in my head daily now as an officer,” he said.

At Northern Illinois University, Jay studied social sciences, including history, political science and English.

After graduation, he began a career as a professional wrestler, traveling the country and world. That experience also led him to an opportunity to run fitness facilities and coach and train wrestlers.

His career as a professional athlete taught him discipline and how to get along with other people, he said.

“I traveled extensively and interacted with people from all over the world, different races, languages, perspectives, and I’ve had to learn to connect and interact with them in different ways, which I think will be very important as an officer,” he said.

Since his first day on the job Nov. 16, Jay has been in training, from learning computer systems to spending time on patrol with other officers. He also has had several days of learning about laws, defensive tactics and firearms and even assisted in teaching a couple of DARE classes at area schools.

“Law enforcement offers so many career path opportunities, but I could see myself as a resource officer, a detective or moving into a leadership administrative position sometime,” he said.

He will spend the next month working with detectives in investigations and in March will attend the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

“Every day is training and learning because no situation is the same, so I don’t plan on stopping training,” he said. “Luckily for me, Seymour Police Department has some great instructors and trainers to pass on their knowledge and experience.”

New to law enforcement, Jay said he is looking forward to personal and professional growth and wants to do whatever he can to make Seymour and SPD better.

“I’d like to leave a positive mark or influence as I establish a new career,” he said.

The best way to serve

Bryan, 22, of Columbus has known he wanted to be a police officer since he was a young boy.

“I had an uncle who was a police officer in Las Vegas, so growing up around him, it kind of put that idea in my head, and ever since I could remember, it’s what I’ve wanted to do,” he said.

Like most emergency responders, Bryan said he has always wanted to help other people.

“I felt that was the best way for me to serve,” he said of becoming an officer.

A 2017 graduate of Columbus East High School, Bryan started down the road to law enforcement in high school by taking criminal justice through the C4 program in Columbus. He also was a standout athlete, having wrestled and played football and lacrosse.

He then attended Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus and earned his associate degree in criminal justice. Now, he’s working toward his bachelor degree in business and finance.

While at Ivy Tech, he started working as an officer for Indiana University through its cadet program and completed the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in 2019.

He heard about the opening at SPD, was told he should apply and after completing all of the requirements was hired.

Bryan said he knows he has to work hard for everything he wants to achieve in his career and life.

“I’ve been told I’m a quick learner, so I hope I can bring that to the department, and I’m very team-oriented, which I believe is a great quality to have,” he said. “I feel I can listen when I need to listen and help when I can help. Those are just some of the qualities and attributes I believe I can bring.”

He may not be the biggest or strongest officer, but he makes up for that with a never-give-up attitude and true desire to help others, he said.

Bryan starts his field training full time next week.

“Being a new area for me, I’m really looking forward to getting out into the community and meeting new people, just interacting and enjoying what Seymour has to offer,” he said.