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Featured today in Part 13 of “Called to Serve,” a weekly N-G series in which law-enforcement officers share stories about their journey to the job with Editor Jeff D’Alessio: Champaign County Sheriff’s Deputy and Unity High School Resource Officer KEVIN FRANZEN.

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Kevin Franzen

As students returned to school last month, Unity High School Resource Officer Kevin Franzen posted this photo on Facebook, with the message: ‘Here we go!! It’s been a challenging 18 months but we are excited to see ALL the students AND have them back for full days again. Wishing everyone a safe and productive year. Go Rockets!!’

'I always got a thrill driving by his house and seeing that squad car parked in the driveway'


Law enforcement became a source of interest when I was in grade school. Growing up in northern Champaign County, I had numerous positive interactions with police that left a lifelong impression on me.

My cousin, Gayle Franzen, was the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections. I attended a family reunion, and he showed up with a security detail that sat at the end of the driveway as his personal security. I remember thinking that was the coolest thing ever.

Gayle’s dad, Mike, was a Champaign County deputy who lived a couple miles away from our house, and I always got a thrill driving by his house and seeing that squad car parked in the driveway. Hearing stories of their jobs and involvement in law enforcement was always a source of pride in our family.

As I got older, I still had the desire to work in law enforcement but did not have what I considered to be the maturity and self-confidence I needed to become a successful law-enforcement officer. I attended classes but was not the best student and did not really like school, which is ironic, as I have been a school resource officer for the majority of my career.

I decided to go into sales in an effort to get out of my comfort zone and bolster my confidence.

After working in sales and service for about 10 years, I decided to change course and follow my dream of being in law enforcement. I owe a lot of where I am today to my childhood friend, classmate, co-worker and mentor, Brian Mennenga.

Kevin Franzen and Brian Mennenga

Franzen, right, with mentor, co-worker and one-time classmate Brian Mennenga.

Brian had been with the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office for several years, and I learned a lot from him during conversations and numerous ride-alongs he endured with me.

During these ride-alongs, the camaraderie and brotherhood that I observed with other deputies and area officers left an indelible impression on me. I realized these men and women had a special family bond, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I will always be grateful to Lt. Mennenga for taking me under his wing.

Fast-forward 22 years, and I am nearing the end of my career. I have witnessed many great things my counterparts have done to ensure the safety and security of this county. I have seen the selflessness and danger they put themselves in without hesitation.

I will always be extremely proud to have served my community as a law enforcement officer and call them my brothers and sisters.

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