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Monday, Nov. 24, 2014

Sebourn will bid farewell to DPS

Sunday, February 26, 2006

(Photo)
Capt. Joe Sebourn, right, offers Capt. John Martin some pointers on administration software.
SIKESTON -- After nearly 36 years on the Sikeston police force, Capt. Joe Sebourn is ready to hang up his badge.

Tuesday will be Sebourn's last day as a police officer.

Retirement came just a bit earlier than he would have preferred due to health issues. "I would have liked to work another year or so, but it's just time to move on," he said.

Sebourn got his start with the Sikeston Police Department on June 8, 1970, several years before it was combined with the fire department to form the Sikeston Department of Public Safety.

"I was hired by Arthur Bruce," Sebourn recalled. "I guess I'm the last one left that was hired by Bruce."

The police station was located in the building that is now the Board of Municipal Utilities office on North Prairie Street. A year or two after Sebourn was hired, the city's police headquarters were moved to the basement of City Hall where DPS headquarters are now located.

The room which eventually became Sebourn's office for many years was at that time occupied by the city clerk.

"So my old office has a lot of history," he said.

As for Sebourn's history, "I was born in England, Ark., and then my parents moved to Peach Orchard," he said. "I graduated from Gideon High School in 1965."

It was about this time that Sebourn met his wife, Mary.

"My mother introduced him to me," she recalled. "I met him in Gideon - we married in Rantoul, Ill."

Sebourn decided he wanted to work in law enforcement and chose the military route to his goal.

"I spent three years and 10 months in the Air Force as security police," he said. "I went in March 16 of '66 and I got discharged Jan. 16 of '70."

His job as a military policeman at the Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul wasn't much different than working as a civilian policeman.

"At Chanute, the only difference was you didn't take your weapon home," he said. "I worked accidents, domestic calls, wrote tickets or whatever."

Upon leaving the military, Sebourn wasn't immediately able to find a police job in the area. "After I got out I worked at Brown Shoe at Bernie for a little bit," Sebourn said. "Then Arthur Bruce called me and said, 'Boy - you want to go to work?' ... Once I started working I liked it and I didn't see no reason to change."

One of the more difficult decisions during his career was moving into a supervisory position and becoming a captain in May 1977.

"That was a tough deal," he said. "I knew I'd be in the office as a captain. I loved working the street -- I didn't know if I could stand working the office."

Sebourn ended up being happy with his decision. And while he had seniority when the director's position opened up several times over the years, "I never did want the chief's job," he said. "I liked my job."

Sebourn has seen many changes in law enforcement since he began.

"When I started, cars didn't have air conditioners, the windows you had to roll up by hand," he said. Cruisers weren't even equipped with AM/FM radios, "and the police radio was usually a two-channel. We only had a couple of portable radios. We have a lot more equipment now then we had in the '70s and '80s."

Among the biggest changes for Sikeston was forming DPS on Aug. 1, 1976.

"Ken Francis was the first director," Sebourn recalled. "Some people liked it, others didn't."

Sebourn said the current director, Drew Juden, deserves credit for building DPS up by pushing for better salaries and benefits.

"If the city doesn't have good benefits and salaries, you're going to lose people," he said. "Drew's been good for the city. Drew's been a good boss -- I've enjoyed working under him. Turnover is way down in the last several years and people that left prior to Drew have come back."

In addition to building a top-notch staff, "we've got probably some of the best equipment between St. Louis and Memphis," Sebourn said.

As for his retirement plans, Sebourn said he hopes to "get healthy, first."

In January 1995, Sebourn found out he had a disease called IgA nephropathy. "It destroyed the filtering system of my kidneys," he said.

On Jan 13, 1995, Sebourn checked in to a hospital at 8 a.m. "A couple hours later I was on dialysis," he said.

On March 27, 1995, he received some good news.

"My pager went off - I was eating a hamburger at Cream Castle," he recalled. "They said I had a kidney. ... I got the transplant and I've been good ever since - I haven't had any rejections. Then that fall, I started limping."

Sebourn explained the steroids he was taking as part of the transplant process damaged his hip joint. "So I had my first hip replaced August of '96," he said.

Sebourn suffered several complications including a staph infection which eventually required him to have an operation in October.

After returning home from this operation, "I touched my leg and it was bloody," he said.

As another infection had set in, Sebourn had to have surgery again Dec. 13 to remove the artificial hip along with infected tissue. "They took over half of the femur bone," his wife said.

"Now I'm just waiting until March 7," Sebourn said, which is the date they will replace his hip for hopefully the last time.

As his wife retired July 1 as a teacher for Sikeston Public Schools, the Sebourns will then finally be free to travel.

One of the first trips they plan to take is another visit to Colorado Springs, Colo., where one of the children and their granddaughter live.

"We have a grandson due anytime," he added.

Other than travel, "I love to garden, like to fish, like to hunt," Sebourn said. "I like to work in the yard - I have to stay busy."

While he would have liked to work another year or so at DPS, "I don't have no regrets, no complaints," Sebourn said. "The city's been good to me - all the council members and city managers and the guys I work with."

Nor does he have any worries about how DPS will do without him as the department has good supervisors and a strong leader.

"I think the department's headed in the right direction - everybody's working hard," Sebourn said.