Not much in life slows down Citizen Potawatomi Nation police officer Kurt Shirey. In fact, some consider him to be the Nation’s Energizer Bunny.

Before coming to work at CPN, Shirey served 25 years as a City of Shawnee police officer and then became the Pottawatomie County Sheriff for seven years.

He enjoyed some aspects of running for sheriff, including talking with others and building relationships across the county. However, his wife Connie’s opinion differed.

“My wife hated campaigning because of all the rhetoric involved. She, in fact, told me if I ever decided to run for sheriff again, it would be by myself,” Shirey said, then laughed.

Career specialization

Although Shirey always had an interest in law enforcement, the technical side is his favorite to explore. This inspired him to become an expert fingerprint examiner in the State of Oklahoma and attend polygraph school in Houston, Texas.

Kurt and Connie Shirey enjoy daily activities at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Title VI Program.

“In the 1980s, there were more polygraph examiners in the city of Houston than there were in the entire state of Oklahoma,” he said. The program lasted three and a half months, and “it involved some sociology, physiology, and some other things as well that you have to be aware of, so it was pretty encompassing.”

At the time, Shirey and his wife Connie had three little boys: Tige, Kyle and Heath.

“It was really tough,” Shirey said. “I’d get out of class on Friday, and it would take me sometimes two hours to get out of Houston. It would take me about eight hours (total), so I’d get home early Saturday morning. Usually, we’d get up Sunday morning, go to church, go to dinner, then shortly after that, I’d head back. It was hard. The roughest thing to do was to head back down there.”

Shirey became one of the few polygraph examiners in the Oklahoma after completing the program.

Overcoming adversity

Due to heart issues, Shirey received a Left Ventricular Assist Device a few years ago. The LVAD, situated inside his chest, ensures adequate blood flow and requires him to carry a large battery at all times.

Because of the LVAD, “a lot of the things people enjoy and take for granted every day, I can’t do ,” he said. Luckily, his wife Connie is there to assist.
Shirey’s thankful for Connie’s companionship throughout their 47 years of marriage.

Potawatomi bingo

Shortly after coming to work for the Nation, Shirey began making regular visits to the CPN Title VI Program to provide patrons information and assistance as a work assignment. Now Shirey also serves as the program’s official bingo announcer.

“If the elders have problems, they can come up to me, or I’ll make an announcement to make them aware of scams or other things going on that they need to be aware of,” he said.

Shirey hopes to pass on one key piece of wisdom obtained through decades of service, “learn what you can from your past generations,” he said. “Do it with honor and respect. Just pay attention to your elders, learn from your elders and do those things that are right.”