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Published: Saturday, 6/15/2002

Police lieutenant studies the past

Toledo Police Lt. Shirley Green is top UT history student Toledo Police Lt. Shirley Green is top UT history student
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It might seem odd that a police officer would have such an intense interest in history.

More likely, one might suppose that a police officer in the halls of academe is there to study subjects along the lines of law or criminal justice, maybe.

But history? Why not?

Toledo Police Lt. Shirley Green is a stellar history student at the University of Toledo. She holds the 2002 Randolph C. Downes Award, given to the most outstanding student, based on grade point average and recommendations from professors.

This is unusual because she's a nontraditional student: Next month, she will have been on the Toledo police force for 26 years. Even the UT history department chairman was amazed.

“I've been here for 35 years and I can't remember the last time a nontraditional student had won it,” Dr. William Longton said.

Lieutenant Green, the police department's equal employment officer, was the first black woman to become watch commander in 1995. Yet she didn't acquire an appetite for history solely on her own. Anyone familiar with the police department years ago will recognize the name of retired police detective Marshall Swan, Lieutenant Green's father.

Like most parents with a bent in a particular area, Captain Swan made history discussions a routine part of family life.

“He talked about historical tidbits and would ask us questions that were geared to our ages,” she recalled.

Captain Swan didn't get to finish work on a history degree at Wilberforce University, but his daughter plans to obtain her bachelor's in history next spring, after she retires. Then, she'll seek a master's in history.

“I'll continue at UT because it has a good history department,” Lieutenant Green said. She has considered teaching history, but will stay open to other options.

Meanwhile, she'll keep making history come alive for her colleagues, who are quick to toot her horn and insist that she deserves a fellowship. The lieutenant notes the prerequisites, then modestly says that a fellowship would be nice. Det. Liz Kantura was among those who surprised her by showing up at the awards dinner.

“She's amazing,” Detective Kantura said. “I've never been good at history, but listening to Shirley makes me want to take a history class. She knows so much detail.”

Some scoff at those who watch the History Channel, but not Lieutenant Green. Sgt. Gloria Burks didn't watch it until Lieutenant Green raised her awareness.

“She makes you want to know more about history,” she said.

When Lieutenant Green retires from the force, the department will lose a cordial, professional officer.

“Her shift is the one that most officers fight to get on. People want to work for her and want to do the job,” Sergeant Burks said.

Detective Kantura added, “She has a knack for communicating with people. When she leaves, a lot of tears will be shed.”

Yet her pursuit of history fulltime will be good for the discipline. When she retires, she'll leave more Toledo police officers curious about the past, and that's a good thing.

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