When she was 2, Amanda Shanahan loved to hop onto the lap of her godmother while she was dispatching for the Tustin PD.
Her godmother, Scottie Frazier, often would see Amanda at work and tell her she had the personality for the job.
Some things have a way of working out.
And in Shanahan’s case, maybe it was destiny.
Originally wanting to become a teacher, Shanahan now is in her 11th year as a dispatcher in the TPD’s Communication Center.
She comes from a family with an impressively long line of relatives with experience in law enforcement — a line dating all the way back to the mid-1700s.
Amanda spent a lot of time as a child at the TPD because her father, Mike Shanahan, was a longtime officer at the agency. Mike Shanahan retired from the TPD as a captain in January 2006.
His last official order of business, before deciding to stay on at the TPD for several additional years as a reserve officer, was pinning a badge on Amanda as she was sworn in as a dispatcher, a civilian position.
“I feel I’m where I’m supposed to be,” says Amanda, 36, whose official title is Communications Officer II. “I’m helping people, which is what I always wanted to do as a teacher. It’s just that I’m doing that in a different capacity as a member of a law enforcement agency.”
During a recent interview, Shanahan produced a typed, four-page summary of her ancestors’ history in law enforcement. Her grandfather, Hugh A. Shanahan, 81, of Bloomington, Ind. — the father of Mike Shanahan — prepared the summary.
Hugh Shanahan is a former officer for the Gary, Ind. PD who also worked for the U.S. Treasury Department Federal Bureau of Narcotics, now known as the Drug Enforcement Administration, part of the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
Hugh also is the stepson of Opie C. Cross (1903-1981), a former Gary, Ind. police officer whose claim to fame is arresting, along with his partner, the paramour of Midwest bank-robbing legend John Dillinger — the famous “Lady in Red” Anna Campunas (aka Ana Sage), prostitute and brothel owner. Sage helped the FBI track down the Depression-era outlaw Dillinger, who was shot to death at age 31 by police.
Cross is just one colorful character in Amanda Shanahan’s family tree.
Peter Jackson, Amanda’s great-grandfather six times removed, was a member of the Pennsylvania Militia in the U.S. Revolutionary War. He was selected by Gen. George Washington to be one of the 90 first soldiers to cross the Delaware River at Trenton, N.J.
John Jackson (1790 – 1873) was a member of the Ohio Militia who fought the British and Indians in the War of 1812.
And Edwin C. Shanahan (1898-1925), a distant cousin of Hugh Shanahan, was the first FBI special agent killed in the line of duty. A car thief killed Edwin on Oct. 11, 1925.
The stories and the cast of law enforcement officials in Amanda’s family tree go on.
Amanda says she didn’t feel pressure to go into law enforcement because of her family history.
“I never really thought I would do this,” says Shanahan, who was born in Mission Viejo and grew up in Anaheim and Yorba Linda.
Her father, who joined the Tustin PD in 1976, never pushed her, but suggested she look into LE as a career when Amanda felt she was kind of spinning her wheels while attending Cal State Fullerton and working at a grocery store as well as at the Placentia-Yorba Linda School District.
Amanda applied to a lot of police agencies, but only the Tustin PD was hiring at the time.
She did a “sit along/sit in” with a dispatcher, and was hooked.
She felt the job’s requirements and features — multi-tasking, attentive listening, something new on the other end of the 911 call every time — were right up her alley.
Amanda applied to the Tustin PD without her dad’s knowledge.
“My application originally was denied because my dad was in charge of hiring,” Amanda says. “The police chief at the time came into his office and told him they had a great applicant to process, but couldn’t because of him.” There is a city regulation regarding nepotism that would have prevented it.
Mike Shanahan, eyeing retirement anyway, got the ball rolling to leave the agency, allowing his daughter to be considered for hiring.
And she was.
“I’ve never been happier,” Amanda says. “Every day is the same, but every day is different.”
Over the course of her dispatching career, she’s heard it all.
“On one call the caller said. ‘My dad just tried to shoot my mom, so I shot my dad,’ and during another call a guy who had a stroke died on the phone while talking to me,” Shanahan says.
An avid baker and cook, Shanahan is famous around the TPD for always bringing in baked goodies for her colleagues on their birthdays.
She recently earned her first lifesaving award — a rarity for a member of the communications unit.
Amanda was honored recently at the Tustin PD’s annual awards ceremony for dispatching TPD officers to a call regarding a motorcyclist down on a nearby freeway. Usually a CHP matter, Shanahan decided to send TPD officers to the scene because so many 911 calls were flooding her agency.
Her actions, and those of TPD Officer Mark Turner, Officer Matt Howard, Master Officer Jeremy Laurich and Communications Officer Kailey Kaczor, helped save the life of the downed motorcyclist. TPD officers applied a tourniquet on the man’s leg. He would have lost his leg without their efforts, fire and hospital officials said.
Beyond her dispatching duties, Amanda is active at the Tustin PD. She currently is on her third term as president of the Tustin Police Support Services Association (TPSSA), the association for the agency’s 40 or so civilian employees. She also is a member of the Chief’s Employee Forum, the Tustin Police Foundation and the Awards Committee, is a trainer for new Communications Officers and is a past recipient of the Officer of the Month award.
“She’s a solid dispatcher,” says Mary Novotny, manager of the TPD’s Communications Center. “She has the knowledge and desire to be proficient in her job, and she’s very thorough and detail oriented. Amanda also has a high regard for all personnel in the field, and she maintains a professional attitude with citizens and department personnel.”
Shanahan also is very active at her church, St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church in Yorba Linda. She was selected to serve on the PPC, Parish Pastoral Council, and is very active with her SCC group, Small Christian Community, which every year adopts a needy family for Christmas. Shanahan volunteers regularly at her church, most notably with the Outreach Center and annual Oktoberfest.
“I don’t say no very well,” Shanahan says with a laugh.
Outside of work and church, Shanahan is a huge hockey fan who tries to attend Anaheim Ducks games as often as possible. She also loves hosting dinner parties for family and friends and playing with her rescues — three dogs and one cat.
“We’re one big happy family,” she says.