Last year around Christmastime, I phoned motors officer Brian Bylsma and told him if he wanted a story on Blue Santa this year, he’d have to convince Sergeant Korby Kennedy to put on the blue Santa hat and pose for a picture. Bylsma paused for that deep-voiced laugh of his, and at the end of the chuckle, said something like, ‘Now you and I both know that isn’t going to happen’. It was true, we both knew the only way we’d be getting that picture is if we Photoshopped the hat on ourselves, but the thought was amusing to ponder. Korby Kennedy just wasn’t one for cutesy.
Sharp and sarcastic with a sense of humor drier than a west Texas summer, Korby was a virtuoso of the witty repartee, challengers be damned. He was a hard-nosed cop with little tolerance for BS, and carried about him that sort of tenured honesty common to senior officers: things were either black or white. You either follow the rules, or you go to jail. “It’s that simple,” he would say. “Period”.
That same assertiveness positioned Korby as leader within the force, bringing him to the table for all 174 officers of the San Angelo Police Department as they fought an eight-month battle for pay raises in early 2014.
Seated across the city staffers in what, more than once, took on a tense “us vs. them” vibe as discussions got heated, Korby remained as stoic as a poker player, collecting bits of paper from a row of officers behind him and posing their questions and concerns sternly, but tactfully.
After months of regular meetings, Korby negotiated a pay raise schedule all parties deemed fair. But anyone listening to the negotiations would note that it wasn’t just about the money; the president of SACOP was genuinely invested in making the department better for his fellow officers by addressing the deep-rooted issues of retention.
Korby lived for the department, but he wasn’t all tough. Even if he tried to hide it one couldn’t miss his face light up when elementary students presented him with Valentine’s Day cards, or how he could be spotted in a long, white apron volunteering his time at a friend’s fundraising benefit. He was proud of his kids and he loved his wife, valued his friends and was strict on the law.
It’s ironic that a man who has held such a strong position in his work life—a man who has stood at the scene of countless car crashes as a traffic investigator—should die the way that he did. And it’s stupid, as Korby would say. It’s stupid because whatever was going on at the intersection of Knickerbocker Road and Albert Street moments before impact, it cost a life. That one moment robbed a family of a husband and father. It robbed a police department of a leader. And it robbed a city of a protector.
Sergeant Korby Kennedy, rest in peace.