In the Northland, a graduate degree designed by a Polish former World War II resistance fighter seems to be the qualification of choice for police chiefs. Liberty Chief of Police James Simpson is among four current Northland police heads — including those in Gladstone, North Kansas City and Riverside — with a Masters in Public Affairs from Park University.
When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Jerzy Hauptman worked for the water department in the capital, Warsaw. He escaped into the city’s familiar water and sewer system and joined the Polish resistance. After migrating to the United States after the war, Hauptmann became an internationally recognized scholar in political science and public administration. He taught at Park for more than half a century. In 1982, Hauptmann created the MPA program, and Simpson studied under him during the late 1990s.
“Yes, we’re all kind of products of Dr. Hautpman,” said Simpson, who graduated in 1997. The Liberty police chief said Hauptmann looked like Albert Einstein, had a grandfatherly manner and was one of the sharpest people he has ever met.
The head of Gladstone’s police and fire departments fondly remembers the WWII veteran.
“He had a very interesting background, and he shared a lot of these experiences that shaped his philosophy,” he said. “He was a very dynamic person and very engaging.”
The current dean of the Hauptmann School of Public Affairs, professor Laurie N. DiPadova-Stocks, said the degree Hauptman created has four areas of concentration: public management, nonprofit and community services management, disaster and emergency management, and business, government and global society. She said it attracts students who are working professionals in public service, like police, but also military, nonprofit and education sector employees, and business people. There are also a number of international students.
The dean said that one distinctive characteristic of this MPA program is that it recognizes that the real work of the professions is found in relationships between sectors and not simply within one sector.
“We do our work interacting with people working in organizations in other sectors,” she said. “My guess is that this feature is helpful to leaders in law enforcement.”
Simpson agrees and said he chose to study at Park because it offered the managerial skills he was looking for, including forward planning, critical thinking and dealing with tight budgets.
“Leveraging new technologies and getting guys out of the (police) car dealing with citizens more have been some of the things that helped me in that class,” said Simpson. The school also accommodated his work schedule, and offered weekend and night courses.
Mike Hasty, director of the Gladstone Department of Public Safety, studied and graduated with Simpson.
“We both kind of went in there as partners,” he said.
Both said the MPA improved their communication skills. The Liberty police chief said his writing improved considerably during the course, not least because Hauptman believed in being concise and usually wouldn’t accept more than a page length for essay answers. He also taught Simpson the importance of word selection — with a somewhat dark sense of humor.
“He once told me that he held my feelings in his mouth like so much warm spit,” Simpson said. “He goes, ‘I want to know your opinion, I don’t care if you think or you feel.’ It was funny, but he was right.”
The MPA program also broadens the frame of reference of even seasoned law enforcement personnel, Hasty said.
“I’d been in public safety for all my adult career and so I found meeting, and working and studying with other people in other areas gave me another avenue of reference to explore.”
Other Northland police chiefs who graduated from the Hauptmann School of Public Affairs are Greg Mills, Riverside, 1997, and Steve Beamer, North Kansas City, 1998. Parkville Police Chief Kevin Chrisman also has a Park connection. He received a bachelor’s degree from the university in 1993.