Cajun culture and a desire to help guide police officer


Kaitlin Deslatte grew up in Centerville on the Cajun Coast 80 miles southwest of New Orleans, where grandparents are “maw maw” and “paw paw,” and brown roux sauce makes everything taste better.

But it was really after she left Louisiana to seek a graduate degree, that Deslatte was actively moved to study her Cajun roots.

“I bought copious amounts of zydeco CDs, read tons of books and articles on the history-trials-tribulations of Acadians and Cajuns, researched my family’s genealogy, and began honing my cooking skills,” Deslatte says. She called aunts long distance for advice on making roux, and perfected her jambalaya.

“I consider myself the cultural ambassador of everything Cajun to the world. I’m trying to spread the joy of life of the Cajun culture wherever I go,” says the community outreach officer with the University of Michigan Police Department.

Kaitlin Deslatte, community outreach officer with the U-M Police Department and Louisiana native. (Photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography)

In this role, Deslatte’s key focus is crime prevention and safety. She teaches students and staff to be prepared for situations. These include dealing with an active shooter in a public setting. Such incidents are rare. But police say the training is fitting, considering shootings in recent months.

“I enjoy working at UMPD as the majority of my police campus contacts are positive ones that have an instant impact in our community,” she says.

Police work is Deslatte’s second career. She majored in anthropology at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and earned a degree in 2003.

Also that year, Deslatte met her wife, Krysta Ryzewski, at an archaeological project in the Caribbean. It so happened that Ryzewski’s academic adviser, at Brown University, was Richard Gould. He was the leader of a forensic recovery group that taught archaeological recovery techniques to police, providing them with a more systematic method for gathering evidence at large-scale mass disaster scenes.

“He was instrumental in my education and training in forensic recovery, which led me to law enforcement,” Deslatte says. 

But that was five years later. After earning her master’s in archaeology at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, Deslatte worked field jobs in the Caribbean and New England. But when the economic downturn affected those jobs, she got to thinking about the forensic police work she was exposed to. Instead of filing research, “I wanted to do something with a more immediate reward,” she says.

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That was in 2009. Deslatte took a police job in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, a former mill town of 46,000, many from French-Canadian heritage. “A lot of the surnames were similar to Louisiana,” she says.

After three years, the couple moved to Detroit, as Ryzewski joined the Wayne State University faculty. Deslatte landed a job with the U-M Police.

Deslatte was the first in her family to graduate from college. She says her maw maw, June Savoy Hebert, and momma, Debbie, placed a high value on education and also supported her sports activities. Deslatte in 1999 was state champion in javelin, throwing 123 feet, 9 inches.

“They encouraged my pursuits into archaeology and I know they would be equally proud and very pleased with my career as a public servant in law enforcement,” she says.

Both died from cancer while she was in college. “So I have my special guardian angels always looking after me,” Deslatte says.


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