Police officer by day and crime writer at night, Officer Shawn Davis G’23 turns the notion of a stereotypical police officer on its head. Davis embodies what it is like to have a unique career filled with unexpected turns.
Davis described his long-standing career in law enforcement, “It was an accident. I always wanted to be a writer and a teacher. While I was working on my English degree, I worked security in a hospital with Section 12 patients who needed psychiatric help. It turned out I was good at deescalating people and communicating with them.”
After becoming a security supervisor at the hospital, Davis moved on to an area college where he worked as a campus police officer. After 11 years in that role, Davis became a Paxton Police Officer and has served at Anna Maria College for the past 12 years.
Davis has incorporated empathy, strong communication skills, and a focus on the individual throughout every job he has held. These qualities made him the perfect candidate for Anna Maria College’s Counseling Psychology graduate program which he graduated from in August 2023.
“I enjoy the campus police job. I liked helping people during emergency calls and dealing with crisis intervention. And I’ve always tried to deescalate people rather than wrestle with people,” Davis explained about his police work philosophy, “I’d much rather talk and listen to someone and most of the time it works because people just need to be heard. My counseling psychology training comes in useful every day in my job. For example, when my partner’s booking someone at the station and the person is giving them a hard time, not cooperating, sometimes swearing, I come in, and I start talking to them and I listen to them, and they cooperate. It’s not really complicated, it’s not rocket science, but it is understanding people and human behavior.”
As a Paxton Police Officer, Davis receives one class from Anna Maria College every semester, so he decided to explore his interest in psychology. However, he became hooked on the topic and quickly started taking more courses to finish his degree in Counseling Psychology, even choosing the licensure track so he could become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC).
He credits the hybrid class model and dedicated professors for helping him earn a master’s degree while working a full-time job where he was on call all the time. From the moment he joined, the head of the program, Dr. John Pratico, made him feel supported and even sent him a congratulations email.
However, the best experience in the program came when Davis interned at the Worcester County Jail in the Mental Health Department. After working in law enforcement for decades, it was interesting for Davis to see the other side of the coin and provide counseling and mental health support to criminals.
“I was a mental health counselor, and I was proud of it too. I counseled sex offenders, murderers, gang members, domestic abusers,” Davis explained, “Most of these guys, not surprisingly, had horrific family lives. And that’s where I used the psychodynamic theories that I learned in class. I would also use CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, to try to get them to challenge their negative thoughts. A lot of these guys have low self-esteem because they’re in jail. They’ve been told they’re losers all their life. So, part of my goal was to build their self-esteem.”
Davis knows that as he gets older, he will not be able to be a law enforcement officer forever, so he is planning to use his Anna Maria Counseling Psychology degree to help people whenever he decides to retire from the force.
Davis still enjoys writing and has published over ten books including his novel, Diary of a Serial Killer: Book I of the Serial Killer Series. From a non-fiction book detailing the harrowing story of a POW survivor to science fiction and crime thrillers, Davis is happy to have a wide variety of interests in his personal and professional life.
He encourages future Anna Maria students to go out, try new things, and create their own path.
“You don’t have to follow a linear career path, you can learn different skills, and it still works out. I did Criminal Justice for my bachelor’s degree, but I wanted to do something completely different for my masters. I wanted to connect with people through Counseling Psychology. Your life plan doesn’t have to be perfect. I would also say don’t give up. I almost gave up a few times, you know, because it was hard working full-time while taking two classes a semester. But if I can do it, anyone can do it, and the professors at Anna Maria will help you every step of the way.”