Officer looks to improve police training with adult education degree

Officer Ryan Skaggs with his K9 partner—a chocolate lab mix named Zeus

When it came to advancing his career, Officer Ryan Skaggs with the IU Police Department has turned to perhaps an unlikely source: the Adult Education program at the School of Education.

Skaggs has begun to develop training for several areas in IUPD, including the department’s growing K9 force, the bike patrol program, defensive tactics instruction and instruction of standardized field sobriety testing, all areas that will benefit from his Master's in Adult Education. And the degree is one he can take with him as his professional life changes.

“One day when I feel satisfied with my career in law enforcement, I will still be able to use my degree to plan and put on great educational programs for adults, whether it be in a personally owned business, or developing training at an organization,” he said.

Skaggs’s journey to becoming a police officer started when he was an undergrad at IU taking classes to major in business. He soon started taking criminal justice classes instead and after participating in the IUPD cadet program, he found his home with IUPD in 2011.

Now when Skaggs reports for duty, it’s with Zeus, an adorable chocolate lab mix who is also a bomb-sniffing dog. A typical shift for Skaggs and Zeus starts with morning coffee and a training scenario, typically near Ashton Center or in the purple lot north of Memorial Stadium.

“After some exercise, Zeus gets some rest, and I go back to doing the actual police work that is still part of my job,” he explained. “We usually repeat this cycle between four and six times during our normal 12-hour shift. Zeus and I are both worn out at the end of the day, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Skaggs and Zeus have been working together since 2017, where they patrol major venues like Assembly Hall before games for explosives. Zeus is also trained to track people who are missing or articles that may have been thrown during a crime.

Skaggs also travels with the IU men’s basketball team to provide security. While he admits to being a major IU basketball fan, he also knows he has to do a job first.

“A lot of times the coaches and the players may seem larger than life, but they are really just people like you and I,” he said. “Those student athletes and student managers are some of the hardest working college students you could ever imagine. I thought going to class for two hours a day and doing some homework was tough. Most of these young adults are getting their degrees in less than four years, all while putting in an incredible amount of time working on their talent. It definitely has given me a greater appreciation for the value of college sports in young people’s lives.”

Away from the police department, Skaggs and his wife Heather, also a Hoosier, are self-proclaimed “big time dog people:” besides, Zeus, they also have Gus and Keiko.

His advice for IU students is simple: “Cherish your time here at Indiana University. Getting my undergraduate degree was only the beginning of what has blossomed into what will, without question, be the most memorable and meaningful part of my life, and I owe it to a lot of hard work, a lot of great luck, a lot of fine people, and most of all, to Indiana University.”