THE HISTORIAN SPOTLIGHT | "MARRIED NATIONAL ACADEMY GRADUATES"
ROY AND NOREEN SKAGEN
BY CINDY REED
The first two women to be accepted to the National Academy were in Session #91 (1972). It wasn’t long afterwards that the designation of first “married National Academy graduates” was achieved. Jim Cotter, former Agent in Charge of the National Academy, gave that designation to Seattle Police Department’s Roy Skagen #92 (1972) and Noreen Skagen #96 (1974).
Sadly, Noreen Skagen passed away on August 25th, 2017. Information for this article came from phone conversations with Roy and news clippings he provided along with the memories of two of their children who were also in law enforcement.
The story of their careers and marriage is interesting. It was not a first marriage for either of them and both had children. Their careers were notable individually and together they were a formidable couple.
Roy served as a Marine Corps officer (and attended officer training in Quantico) and still holds the record for the shortest time rising through the ranks of the Seattle Police Department. He was only 34 when he became the assistant chief of police after serving as Crimes Against Persons Division Major. He was first nominated to attend the National Academy in 1969 when he was a sergeant. Unfortunately, it was a tumultuous time in SPD history with the agency being investigated for corruption by the U.S. Attorney. There was a grand jury investigation and coincidental top to bottom organizational study by the IACP. As a matter of policy, the Bureau would not accept candidates from any agency under federal investigation, so his attendance was put on hold from 1969 until 1972. Roy was put into critical positions within the agency and rose from sergeant to captain. He was accepted for the NA in 1972, which was still difficult for the agency because he was relied on by several interim police chiefs to command the Department’s most complex and sensitive operations and investigations. His session (#92) was the first one in the newly constructed Quantico Academy, so he viewed it as a return to his Marine Corps alma mater. Roy retired in 1992 after 30 years with SPD and continued to be a strong support for his wife who served in several different law enforcement roles as well as volunteering with the community.
Noreen was a sergeant when she attended the NA in 1974 when most attendees were at least lieutenants. According to a comment made to Roy by Jim Cotter, her scores were not only the highest in her class, they were the highest he had ever seen. Her journey into law enforcement was not as straightforward as Roy’s. Noreen majored in journalism at the University of Washington. She married and began her career as a writer. Late in the 1950’s with her marriage failing and two sons to support, she applied to the Seattle Police Department, primarily because of the salary it offered. In those early years her title was policewoman, with responsibilities related to children at risk instead of being assigned to a traditional patrol beat. Throughout her very distinguished career, she managed to combine her deep compassion with a tough approach to doing the right thing, especially as it related to abused youth. It wasn’t uncommon for Noreen to chase down runaway teenagers in dangerous parts of town where police were not welcome. During Noreen’s career, she served in many roles. Her talents with Seattle PD were finally acknowledged and rewarded with her promotion as SPD’s first female Assistant Chief. Her achievements came to the attention of President Ronald Reagan. She was nominated and confirmed in 1988 by the Senate as the first female U.S. Marshal for Western Washington . She served in that position for five years. She volunteered to serve on the Mill Creek Police Advisory Board and in 2000 was asked to act as the interim police chief for the agency.
How did these two come together? Roy said that he had a tough time getting Noreen to agree to date him. She was very strict about mixing the personal with the professional. He finally used a ruse to get her to meet him for coffee across the street from the police department. At that time, he was a sergeant and Noreen was a detective. Roy had been attracted by the same quality that everyone else had noticed: an insistence on devoting her energies to improving other people’s lives with little concern about her own advancement. Noreen was a tough sell . . . she was seven years older than Roy and thought that would be a problem. Roy’s response was “When I am 80, what difference will it make?” Roy reflected on the sad irony that he was, in fact, 80 years old when she died.
Roy’s persistence was rewarded in 1969 when the two were married. Although both brought children into the marriage, it was Noreen’s two sons, Clark and Scott Kimerer, who lived with them and later went into police work. The Skagens were happily married for 48 years. They were proud of their children’s achievements and enjoyed the blessings of their five grandsons from the Kimerer side and 6 granddaughters on the Skagen side.
According to son Clark, “They were never assigned to the same bureau after they married. The Department was pretty scrupulous about not assigning personnel who were married – or even in relationships, to the extent they were acknowledged or admitted – to the same unit, section or bureau. When Mom and Roy were simultaneously Assistant Chiefs, she commanded the Field Support Bureau and he commanded the Investigations Bureau. From the time they married, Mom was in Operations, Crime Prevention and Field Support for almost the entire time that Roy was in Investigations. That institutional practice may have eroded since their tenure, owing to union grievances and constitutional challenges, but back when Mom and Roy were married they were never within the same division or chain of command.” Roy added this comment on the subject “We went to great lengths to keep our careers total separate. We never had lunch or even a cup of coffee together when they were on duty. If we both had to be at the same command staff meeting together while representing our respective commands, we could never seat ourselves on the same side of the conference table. It made our professional lives work well. We had no official photos taken of us together in uniform as it seemed to be the most prudent thing to do.”
When Roy attended the NA in 1972, Clark was only 17 years old and a high school Junior. Clark’s memory was that since Noreen had raised them as a single parent for many years, both boys were very independent and life didn’t change that much. Two years later when Noreen attended and Roy had the responsibilities to corral the kids in her absence, Clark had already left for college.
Clark Kimerer retired in 2014 as the Assistant Chief of Seattle Police Department. His younger brother, Scott Kimerer retired in 2017 from the King County Sheriff’s Office as the Chief of the contract city of Burien. Scott also continued the National Academy tradition set by Noreen and Roy by attending Session 232 in 2008. Older brother Clark was on the list to attend several times, but had assignments involving incident command and operational planning that conspired to thwart being able to attend. Clark was finally able to attend the National Executive Institute (NEI) Session 27 in 2006 as the first Assistant Chief from a department other than New York, Chicago, LA and D.C. to be appointed. At least he could commiserate with the other NA graduates in his family on the size of the rooms and walking through the gerbil tubes.
Both Skagens were a presence in many community activities – it was the consummate “two for one” if either signed up for a volunteer project. One of Roy’s favorite experiences was when Noreen became involved in judging several Miss Washington pageants and even one Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. She also served on the boards of Childhaven, Kid’s Place and the Boy Scouts of America.
Noreen’s passing in 2017 left a huge gap in Roy’s life and he misses her terribly. He consoles himself with the realization that her life was a blessing to so many.
Roy was the one who suggested profiling the historical information of their status as the “first couple” to complete the National Academy.
Although many have now attained that status, Roy and Noreen remain as the trailblazers.
Any suggestions about profiles, articles, local history, please contact me at Creed@fbinaa.org
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