O'Fallon Progress

When O’Fallon detective isn’t solving cases, she’s exploring underwater oases

O’Fallon Police Detective Kathy Effan has been scuba diving in Honduras, the Cayman Islands and up and down the Florida Keys.
O’Fallon Police Detective Kathy Effan has been scuba diving in Honduras, the Cayman Islands and up and down the Florida Keys.

Kathy Effan’s adventurous spirit is evident in her hobbies: scuba diving, skydiving, whitewater rafting, rock climbing and traveling.

“I have a very high sense of adventure — I’m all for it,” she said. “I like to go to new places I have not been before.”

Scuba diving remains her favorite. She’s been to Honduras, the Cayman Islands, up and down the Florida Keys and to other parts of the United States.

“I enjoy the peacefulness of it. Getting underneath the surface to look at marine life or the coral reef, it’s just very peaceful. It’s an environment you don’t get to experience all the time,” she said.

The O’Fallon Police detective and married mother of three took on a new career and pursued exotic adventures after raising her family.

Effan, 45, joined the O’Fallon Police Department 10 years ago and moved over to investigations three years ago. She has been on the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis for two years and is also part of a Child Death Investigation Task Force.

Her children: Alyssa, 25, lives in Arizona; Thomas, 24, is in California; and William, 20, is at home in O’Fallon. She is thrilled that she became a grandmother twice this year, when her two married children, Alyssa and Tom, had girls.

How did she get involved in scuba diving?

“Growing up, both of my parents were divers, so I was exposed to it. But they got out of scuba diving when I was older,” she explained. “My husband was stationed overseas in the military, and he needed underwater certification, so we thought it was something we could do together.”

Today, she is an assistant instructor at Scuba World in Swansea.

Near Metropolis, there is a quarry they use as a training site that has a fuselage from a 727 airplane and other vehicles in the water.

She uses vacation time to pursue underwater adventures, and in October, she assisted in a clean-up dive on the Gulf Coast.

An Illinois group helped in the Dive Against Debris, which is an effort to keep the beaches clean and make the water safer for people and wildlife.

Gulf Shores Police Chief Ed Gilmore is the local connection, as he used to serve as police chief in Fairview Heights.

Divers removed garbage and unnatural debris from a two-and-a-half-mile, clean-up site in Gulf Shore, Ala. Mike Yociss, owner of Scuba World, plans to make it an annual event.

Effan hopes to travel to the Great Lakes next summer because there are a number shipwrecks that divers are allowed to explore.

Besides scuba diving, she has skydived about 20 times, been whitewater rafting in Tennessee, rock climbing in Missouri, and bungee jumping, too.

Effan grew up in central Kansas.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do until I got into college,” she said.

She majored in criminal justice at Florida Gulf Coast University, but she was also skilled in math and worked as a tax appraiser.

She was living in St. Louis when she met her husband, who was stationed at Scott Air Force Base. They moved around and eventually wound up back at Scott.

“My husband and I had an agreement that when he was finished with his last assignment, I would go back to work when the kids were older,” she said. “I had opportunities to raise my children, travel and see the world and then go into law enforcement.”

She likes working for the O’Fallon Police Department, and she appreciates the variety in police work.

“I really like investigations. I like the challenges of a case and solving them,” she said. “Training is very important. We have to make sure we’re up on the statutes and case law.”

She also enjoys the community outreach aspect of the job and is busy preparing for the Santa breakfast on Dec. 17 at Carriel Junior High School, sponsored by the police department at no cost to participants. She is the chairwoman.

“I enjoy working with the volunteers and preparing and organizing it. It’s important for us to be seen in a good light,” she said.

O’Fallon Police Chief Eric Van Hook praised Effan’s efforts as the project leader. “She is an excellent officer, and she has great energy and enthusiasm for this program and works incredibly hard on it,” he said. “It’s a wonderful project, and we have very strong community support in O’Fallon.”

Q: Do you have words to live by?

A: “Don’t worry until it is time to worry. Too many people worry about things too soon when the problem is at a stage that it could work itself out.”

Q: Whom do you most admire?

A: “My father. He was such an intelligent man with such a strong work ethic.”

Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?

A: “Jacques Cousteau. He is one of the most prolific underwater explorers in history. He did so much to bring scuba diving, the underwater world and marine conservation into the public eye.”

Q: What is the last book that you read?

A: “‘​The Art of Safe Cave Diving.​’​ I have an interest in getting into either cavern or cave diving, and I spoke with one of our instructors that teaches cave diving. He loaned me that book, so I could learn more about it.”

Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?

A: “Going on vacation. I like to go anywhere whether it is stateside or out of the country. Many times my vacations revolve around scuba diving, but not always. I just want to go to new places, see new things and have new experiences.”

Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?

A: “During the day while I’m working on cases I have a lot of papers and DVDs on my desk. But by the time I go home at the end of the day, I have everything put away where it all belongs.”

Q: What irritates you most?

A: “When somebody guesses at what they think the answer is to a question or problem rather than taking the time to seek out the correct answer.”

Q: What type of music do you listen to?

A: “Country and classic rock.”

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: “The variety and the challenge. Each day you never know what is going to come across your desk.”

Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?

A: “I would travel to all the best scuba diving locations all around the world.”

Q: When they make a movie of your life, who would play you?

A: “Mariska Hargitay.”

Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?

A: “Mask, fins, snorkel, and a spear so I could go underwater and hunt for fish to eat.”

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