2017-05-07 / Insight

Ron Kalanquin looks back on four decades

810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

Ron Kalanquin Ron Kalanquin LAPEER — Technology and not having to live at the jail were the biggest changes Ron Kalanquin saw during his four decades as Lapeer County’s longest serving sheriff.

His predecessor, Ken Parks, was the last sheriff to live in the jail.

When he lost his bid for a 10th term as sheriff to Scott McKenna in a three-way race in August’s Republican primary, he tied with Lenawee County’s Richard Germond for the title of Michigan’s longest serving sheriff.

Germond lost his bid for a 10th term in 2000 and both men ended up serving their counties for 36 years.

Being sheriff, said the 70-year-old, was “the most fun I’ve ever had in entire life.” It was also the culmination of a boyhood dream. Kalanquin said he was riding a school bus in junior high when he saw a sheriff’s campaign sign and decided he wanted to be an FBI agent, retire and then get elected Lapeer County Sheriff.

When he first got elected, he had a bachelor’s degree in police administration from Michigan State University and a couple of years as a U.S. Dept. of Treasury agent under his belt.

When he started out he was an eccentric college kid with a passion for motorcycles, who wanted to change things. “Did I make a few mistakes along the way? Yes,” he said, but he added he believes he did more good than bad.

Among the good, he lists a push toward community policing and a high degree of professionalism among the deputies as his top achievements.

He said when he was first elected, the sheriff could appoint anyone as a deputy. Kalanquin began a policy of hiring only deputies with a two-year college degree and now nearly all of the department’s deputies have at least that and several have bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

He said part of his success as sheriff was due to picking people like Ross Reynolds and Bob Rapson, who have personalities opposite of his. “Friction creates heat; heat creates fire; and fire is good,” he said.

Kalanquin said they helped him pick from the best in surrounding law enforcement agencies to create policies that covered everything from pursuits to use of force.

“I always thought, if it was good for the community, good for the department and good for the men, we should do it.”

Kalanquin began the senior citizens police academy and Safetyville. The former helped the county’s elderly protect themselves from scam artists while the later helped thousands of the county’s school children learn police are their friends.

“When I started here, we had an office full of file cabinets, full of 3-by-5 file cards,” Kalanquin recalled. He said that’s all been replaced by lap top computers in deputies’ patrol cars.

He said deputies can now retrieve information with a few key strokes that once took hours of thumbing through files.

Kalanquin said the department’s detectives can now review every report filed the day before from their desks in minutes.

Still, he said, in some ways the job has become more demanding. Deputies have to combine split-second decision-making skills with computer literacy and the public has grown to expect more from law enforcement.

Kalanquin said he believes he left a solid foundation for Sheriff McKenna to build on and he’s confident the new sheriff will do just that.

He said it’s hard to imagine what challenges the next generation of deputies will face. “I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said.

Kalanquin noted there’s been a shift in public opinion on marijuana and while he voted for medical marijuana himself, he’s not sure if a more liberal approach to the drug’s use is a good thing or not.

He said the sheriff’s department is in good hands now. “I think it will be fine.”

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