All in the families

(From left) Henrico Police Lt. Stephen Quesinberry, Sgt. Jeffrey Quesinberry, Sgt. Keith deShazo and Retired Commander Raleigh deShazo.
Henrico County Division of Police has long been distinguished by a number of husband-wife and sibling relationships among its officers.

But the July 31 promotional ceremony may well have been one-of a kind, with not one but two father-son pairs of officers in attendance. Of the four police officers being promoted to sergeant, half had fathers that have served as Henrico police supervisors.

Held at the Henrico County Training Center, the ceremony marked Jeffrey S. Quesinberry’s promotion from detective to sergeant, and Keith T. deShazo promotion from officer to sergeant.

Between the two new sergeants and their fathers, Retired Command Sergeant Raleigh C. deShazo and Lieutenant Stephen E. Quesinberry, the men share 113 years of police experience between them.

“That makes me really proud,” said Steve Quesinberry as the four gathered to reflect on their careers prior to the ceremony. The senior Quesinberry’s own father is a retired captain with the Norfolk Police Department, making his son a third generation police supervisor.

“I have two uncles who are also cops, in North Carolina,” remarked Steve Quesinberry. “Somewhere I even have a picture of one uncle busting up a still,” he added with a laugh.

It’s an attitude
While they may have flirted with other careers at some point, all four Quesinberrys and deShazos expressed feelings of having been born to – or at least destined to – pursue police work.

Raleigh deShazo, who hired on with Henrico in 1962, was only the 56th member to join the Division since it had been organized. When he applied, he was working long hours for a soft drink company, and his wife encouraged him to seek police work.

“She’s from England, and growing up, she always wanted to be a bobbie,” said Raleigh deShazo of his wife.

After unsuccessfully trying out for the Richmond Police Department, and falling an inch short of its height requirement, deShazo went with Henrico.

“That was work,” he now says of his former job with the soft drink company. “Then I went to the police department and had fun!”

Five years later, son Keith was born.

Of his early memories of his father’s career, the younger deShazo recalls only that “I liked it and respected it. I met a lot of people he worked with, and they seemed to have a bond.

“I liked hanging around dad. At home he was just a normal dad – not a police officer."

Although his growing-up experiences probably predisposed him toward a police career, Keith deShazo said that he spent his last two years of college in a sales job and might easily have continued in that direction.

The idea of applying to the Henrico police force instead, he said, was really a matter of timing: the division announced an upcoming police academy, after going years without one due to hiring freezes.

Trying out for the academy also appealed to him as a challenge, said deShazo. “I had been working since I was 14,” he said. “I’d always had a job, and I knew I could get a sales job.”

With the police, on the other hand, “I knew I couldn’t just walk in the door and get a job,” he said.

There’s a certain mindset, deShazo went on, that’s essential to succeeding in police work. “If you don’t want this career, you’re not going to make it. Anyone with the police knows that in this profession you’re going to make it on your own.”

His father nodded his head in agreement. “You have to have an attitude,” he said.

‘All I’ve ever wanted to do’
To hear Steve Quesinberry tell it, he could not have avoided a police career if he had tried.

“Police work is all I’ve ever wanted to do,” he said, noting that he grew up hearing his policeman father’s stories every day at dinner and breakfast. “Dad would always talk about what happened last night; he always had a story bigger than TV.”

On the other hand, said Quesinberry, he didn’t want to work in the same place as his father. For the first five years of his career he was a paramedic in Norfolk. Then he came to Richmond to finish his degree at Virginia Commonwealth University, (VCU) with the intention of continuing into the FBI.

“But once I anchored here, I stayed,” he said with a smile. “I’m glad this worked out,” he said of his years with Henrico County, “because I don’t know what else I would’ve done!”

His son Jeff feels the same way about his career with the police.

“I don’t know any other lifestyle,” he said. From the time he was seven and his father was running a training academy in the basement of Dabbs House, Jeff Quesinberry said he has felt at home around his dad’s colleagues.

“Sometimes my mom would bring my sister and me [to Dabbs House] and we would goof off in the gym; we had a blast running around,” he said.

Even the memories from his later, teen-age years didn’t dissuade him from the idea of someday entering the police force.

“This was before the days of pagers and cell phones,” he said of those years, “and the phone would always ring for my father in the middle of the night. I’d be trying to sleep, and I’d hear this ‘thud, thud, thud’ as he got up [and went to work].”

But while attending Benedictine High School, Jeff Quesinberry began considering a military career. A visit with a recruiter – who told him that his asthma would keep him out of the service – convinced him that he should stick with his police aspirations. He applied to Henrico County Division of Police before he had even reached the minimum age of 21, and while he was still taking coursework at VCU. But he was hired, the youngest recruit in his academy class by far.

“I didn’t think I’d get picked up,” he admitted, “because I was so young and hadn’t finished my degree.”

Shoulder to shoulder
Both younger sergeants agree that their fathers’ presence in the division never made any difference in the way they were treated. “No one one ever cut me any slack,” said Jeff Quesinberry. “You either cut the mustard [here] or you don’t.”

In fact, all four fathers and sons say that they have rarely crossed paths at work, either due to working different shifts or different ends of the county.

Steve Quesinberry can recall just one real encounter, when he was called to help break up a large party of about a thousand people that had gotten out of control.

“There were about 40 officers shoulder to shoulder,” he said, “and as we lined up I realized that my son was to my right. Well, you don’t know what a big crowd like that is going to do. So I told Jeff’s mother later that I had my eye on him the whole time.

“Well, my wife said that Jeff said the same thing to her,” he said. “‘He had his eye on you the whole time!’”

The Deshazos also could recall only a handful of times they interacted at work. But as Keith was working a midnight shift some years ago, he had to arrest a young woman who had gotten too wild at a party. “She was not a big fan of me at all,” he said, “and [as we headed to jail] she kept saying, ‘I’ve had enough of you!’

“At the jail, I opened the door, and my dad was standing there. Well, she looked at my name tag, and she looked at his name tag,” Keith deShazo said with a chuckle, “and she said, ‘I’ve really had it now! I can’t believe there’s two of y’all!’”

All four men stressed that, in their line of work, support from spouses and family members is more important than in most jobs. Fortunately, said Keith deShazo, “My mom loves [the police]. I don’t know anyone who loves it more than her.”

“You’ve got to have the support of your spouse in this work,” agreed his father, “because if you have children, [spouses] bring them up. When I started, we worked 60-hour weeks, including evenings and midnights. You were gone.”

Jeff Quesinberry said his mother often jokes about the family choice of career, but she is proud just the same. “She gives Dad a hard time all the time,” he said with a laugh. “She thinks I went in [the force] because of all his war stories.” As for fatherly pride, just ask Steve Quesinberry what he thinks about his son’s success and recent promotion.

“To look at Jeff – and I know Raleigh feels the same way about Keith -- it’s like we’re on the same baseball team,” said Quesinberry. “He plays good, I play good.

“And now it’s like he just hit one out of the park, and I’m going to go sit on the bench a few minutes and just watch him play. “

Also recognized at the July 31 ceremony were Anthony T. Dowdy, promoted to lieutenant; Animal Protection Officer Brandon N. Bohr, promoted to Animal Protection sergeant; and Detective Charles E. Hanna, promoted to sergeant.
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The Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond will present banjoist Noam Pikelny at 7:30 p.m. in Camp Concert Hall, Booker Hall of Music. Pikelny is a founding member of Punch Brothers, a string ensemble. In September of 2010, he was awarded the first annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Pikelny is a three-time Grammy Award Nominee. His next album, the purely solo endeavor “Universal Favorite” is released this month. Tickets are $32. For details, call 289-8980 or visit http://www.modlin.richmond.edu. Full text

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