Callahan – Leading Through Example

Fresno City College Criminology instructor Kevin Callahan is wearing a red sweater and khaki pants, visibly at ease in his office, at a school he failed out of twice over two decades ago.

His office is decorated with a flag of heroes, a nod to all the public servicemen who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Callahan has dedicated 13 years of his life to law enforcement. He got his start in 2005 working with the Sanger Police Department. During his time with SPD, Callahan held the ranks of police officer, corporal, and sergeant. He served as a field training officer, a firearms instructor, a detective, and was part of MAGIC, the multi agency gang enforcement consortium.


Callahan began his post secondary education at FCC, and failed out twice before moving from Fresno to Sacramento, where he attended Sacramento City College. He transferred to Sacramento State where he successfully earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2002.

Callahan went on to receive his master’s degree from UC Irvine in advanced studies in criminology, law and society.

Callahan caught the teaching bug during his time as a training officer for the Sanger Police academy  in 2012.

“It was fun to see them [students] want to learn, and it was fun to also be able to teach and help them go through the paradigm shift that it takes from being a cadet to seeing the world in a different perspective,” Callahan said, “transitioning to what it means to be an officer.”

He transitioned to teaching in 2015, becoming a full-time instructor at FCC, whilst volunteering over 20 hours a month as a reserve officer with SPD.

Born and raised in the Central Valley, Callahan, like most kids, had a love affair with police in fire.

He was heavily influenced by family and friends who were in law enforcement. His father was a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation captain, and his best friend’s father was a police sergeant.

Last January, Callahan received the Sanger Police Department Police Chief’s Award.

“I would describe Kevin Callahan as a man of high caliber and excellent character,” Sanger Police Chief Silver Rodriguez said. “He’s very true to the law enforcement profession, he’s highly ethical, and his character is really kind of ideal for law enforcement.”

As a reserve officer, Callahan is still able to serve as a peace officer, he just works on a volunteer basis. Rodriguez says Callahan would come during his off time, whether after hours or weekends.

“He continues to do so much for Sanger Police Department, the law enforcement profession, and he continues to serve our community with great distinction,” said Rodriguez. “It was important to recognize him.”

“I’m not someone that really cares for the spotlight,” Callahan said. “I just do things to do it, just show up and work, and I really don’t care for the recognition.”

Callahan says one of his biggest motivations is learning how to better connect and help his students.

“I learn the names of the students, and I learn a little bit something about them as we go,”  Callahan said. “I want to have that personal touch.”

He said he is trying to figure out how to add value to the time that they’re here, “but even to add value to the time when they’re beyond.”

Callahan says the biggest disconnect with students is their fear of failure.

“That’s one of the things that I’m learning along the way, is how do I teach these people that it’s OK to fail?” Callahan said. “As long as you don’t get yourself killed, get somebody else killed, get your partner killed, don’t violate someone’s constitutional rights along the way, but it’s OK to make decisions.”

He also tries to teach students to be realistic when they transition to the field.

“If you are reasonable in all of your actions,” he said, “it brings a human element to it, and it allows you to connect with other people as well, so that not every situation is the same.”

“You really have to read the need in that moment, and just be reasonable when you’re problem solving in every situation,” he said.

Callahan recalls a notable event that shaped his view on the importance of fostering positive police interactions within the youth.

Years back while on patrol, two young children approached his car while he was surveilling a house. He noticed that a little girl around 3 years old, the same age as his daughter at the time, took off running as soon as he exited his vehicle. Curious, he investigated and discovered she was a foster child and had been removed from her previous home by police officers.

“What stuck out is the emotional attachment in the memories that little kids have when law enforcement are involved in their lives in an earlier stage,” Callahan said. “There is an opportunity to really be a positive influence on somebody when they’re young.”

Callahan says that experience “is a perfect example of the uniform being a barrier, that people don’t see the human side to police.”

The biggest message Callahan wants to instill into students is: ”Embrace and enjoy the grind of adulthood. It never stops and it’s never easy. Just smile, lean into it and keep giving your best effort.”