Four DPD officers earn M.B.A.s through partnership with Ilitch School and city leaders

DPD MBA graduate headshots
Left to right: First Assistant Chief Lashinda T. Stair, Assistant Chief David LeValley, Commander DeShaune Sims and Commander Kari Sloan

When thinking of a day in the life of a Detroit police officer, does balancing a budget come to mind?

The Detroit Police Department (DPD) has an annual budget approaching $330 million, and the city’s leaders had a challenge: how to equip police leaders to most effectively manage such a large responsibility. Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business and leaders from Detroit city government worked with the DPD to create the Detroit Police Department Leadership Academy. The accelerated program provides post-graduate training in business and leadership to members of DPD’s executive team free of charge. The selection process is competitive, and the course of study is rigorous. Participants graduate with a certificate and approximately half the credits needed to obtain an M.B.A.

Last month, four members of DPD’s executive team—First Assistant Chief Lashinda T. Stair, Assistant Chief David LeValley, Commander DeShaune Sims and Commander Kari Sloan—became the first DPD Leadership Academy graduates to go on and obtain their M.B.A. degrees.

“It’s a unique program specifically designed for law enforcement professionals developed at the request of Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit Police Chief James E. Craig in consultation with Dean Robert Forsythe,” says Toni Somers, associate dean of the Mike Ilitch School of Business and Forsythe’s point person in developing the curriculum. “They wanted us to deliver a business program to officers in leadership roles, because often, many of them have a strong law enforcement background but lack the business training they need to advance.”

“We developed six courses to help officers develop leadership and financial skills,” Somers adds. “Because as they move through the ranks, they have to deal with more and more of these types of challenges.”

The DPD Leadership Academy began in 2018. So far, three 20-person cohorts have completed the program.

“As a member of the Detroit Police Department executive team, our number one priority is always the safety of our citizens,” says First Assistant Chief Lashinda T. Stair. “We also have responsibility for managing people, developing a career path forward, and budget oversight, much the same as management of a Fortune 500 corporation.”

Her latest graduate degree from the Ilitch School has broadened her knowledge base and assisted in meeting those goals, which is why establishing the program was a priority for the city’s leaders, including Mayor Duggan and Chief Craig.

“I am grateful to both Chief Craig and Mayor Duggan for seeing the need and having the vision to provide us with this opportunity,” says Stair. After completing the DPD Leadership Academy and going on to earn her M.B.A., Stair says she finds herself in a better position to manage her team.

“I think my leadership style is the same, but I'm more informed,” she says. “I can be more effective as a mentor for others now, and hopefully create an environment for people to learn and see an exciting career path within the Detroit Police Department, as I’ve done.”

One of the things Stair has learned in her 24 years with DPD is that trust is a key element in mentoring others. “We’ve learned that people who work with you need to know that you trust them to do the work they’ve been assigned,” she says. “We always talk about delegation—we’ve learned that people who work with you need to know that you trust them to do the work. I’m now able to provide another level of support that is so important to mentoring others in the department.”

One of the academy’s specially selected instructors, Donald DiPaolo, says the program has had a profound impact on its graduates.

“It’s improved their working relationships, marriages, friendships...all the things we wish we had learned in college,” says DiPaolo, who has more than four decades of experience in education and leadership development. “The things that can make us all more effective.”

“One of the things this program tries to do is help them as human beings,” DiPaolo adds. “We follow the social-change model of leadership and how it relates to police; you have to have a really good sense of self, identity, character, grounding and high emotional intelligence.”

DiPaolo says the DPD Leadership Academy is an especially important pursuit by the Ilitch School and the DPD because of the unique challenges that come with police work.

“For you and me, if we’re in a group that’s not very effective it can be a little annoying, but if officers are in a group that isn’t very effective it can cost people’s lives,” DiPaolo says. “We look at how we lead in groups and build team identity and bonding, learn conflict resolution, and manage different personalities and leadership styles.”

“This is professional development for them, and we should be investing in this group because there has to be a high skill level in all aspects of police work,” he adds. “We make teachers go back for additional credits—why would that be less important for police than teachers?”

Ilitch School Associate Dean Toni Somers adds that the graduates take their new skills back to their colleagues and put them to use on the job—both formally and informally. In doing so, they are helping to make Detroit more efficient and a safer place to live, work and do business.

For Stair, earning her certificate from the DPD Leadership Academy and her M.B.A. from the Ilitch School has already had an impact close to home. Her two children, a daughter in high school and a son in college, saw their mom graduate with her third degree this spring.

“What I hope and believe is that I’ve set an example for them to be lifelong learners. I want them to appreciate the value of education,” she says. The strategy appears to be working.  “My son was recently afforded an opportunity that would allow him to earn both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years. As soon as he found out about the program, he said, ‘Oh, I am getting that done.’”

“And my daughter wants to be a physician,” she says. “So I know I’ve set a good example for them.”

For more information on the DPD Leadership Academy, please visit

View all news stories