'An experience I wouldn’t trade': Sidun retires after 14 years of duty

Chief of Police and Safety Kenneth Sidun.Chief of Police and Safety Kenneth Sidun.

One glance at Chief of Police and Safety Kenneth Sidun’s office and history unfolds. Police badges and black-and-white photographs of the first Erie Police Department hang proudly on his walls.

“It is one of my hobbies,” said Sidun, who worked in the Erie Police Department for 30 years before accepting his current position at Mercyhurst College in 1996.

“A friend and I researched the history of the Erie Police Department from 1851 to 1953,” Sidun said. “It is something that has never been done before.”

In June 2010, Sidun will be leaving a piece of his own history as he retires from Mercyhurst after 14 years of dedication. “I will be saying good bye along with the last senior class,” Sidun said with a smile.

Originally from McKeesport, Pa., Sidun moved to Erie when he was five years old. “I guess you can call me an Erieite,” Sidun said.

Sidun did not always live in Erie, though. He volunteered three years in the U.S. military and spent two and a half years in Puerto Rico in the U.S. Army Military Police. “I was able to get out before the Vietnam War got hot,” Sidun said.

When he returned to Erie, Sidun worked for General Electric Transportation but was unhappy with his job.

“Since I did not like shop work, my friend suggested I take a police test,” Sidun said. He took his friend’s advice and in 1966 began working for the Erie Police Department. Sidun’s passion for the law enforcement field led him to earn a degree in Criminal Justice from Mercyhurst College in 1974.

Even though Sidun dedicated 30 years of service to the Erie Police Department, he stayed connected to the Mercyhurst community by working Mercyhurst’s Fourth of July Firework Show, Graduation Day Ceremony, and other special events.

“There were many good times, bad times and scary times when I worked for the Erie Police Department,” Sidun said.

After retiring from the Erie Police Department in 1996, Bud Deaver, Director of Security Services at Mercyhurst, recommended Sidun take the position.

“At the time, we were just Security Services; we were not a department,” Sidun said. Under Sidun’s leadership, Mercyhurst’s Security Services grew into the Police and Safety Department it is today.

“The biggest challenge I experienced when I first came to Mercyhurst was the adjustment of coming from a city to a college,” Sidun said. “You have to be mindful that the students are young, still growing up and need some direction.”

While at Mercyhurst, Sidun dealt with a variety of students and challenging situations. For Sidun, the most difficult circumstance involved former student Teri Rhodes. In 2007, Rhodes suffocated her newborn baby shortly after giving birth in her on-campus apartment.

“It was very sad,” Sidun, who was on-duty the day of the incident, said.

Sidun also remembers when student Matthew Milgate was struck and killed by two cars while crossing 38th Street on Saint Patrick’s Day in 2005, in addition to an anthrax scare in 2001.

“A white powder substance was sent in a letter to Mercyhurst from Egypt. The FBI investigated the case and discovered it was not anthrax, but the case was never solved,” Sidun said.

Despite these incidents, Sidun said he enjoyed his time at Mercyhurst and will miss his job, the students, administration and staff.

“Seeing the college grow and change has been very memorable,” Sidun said.

“It’s been a pleasure working with Ken,” Police and Safety clerk Christine Dedionisio said. “He is someone who always looked out for the people in his office.”

Sidun plans to spend his retirement driving his 1934 replica Mercedes Convertible, golfing, researching the history of the Erie Police Department and relaxing in his winter home in Bellview, Fla.

“It was a great 14-year experience. An experience I wouldn’t trade. I am glad I did it,” Sidun said.