2017-07-14 / Front Page

Recently honored Windsor police detective reflects on career so far

By KELSEY CHRISTENSEN

Windsor Police Detective Jennifer Frank stands next to a police cruiser in town. — KELSEY CHRISTENSENWindsor Police Detective Jennifer Frank stands next to a police cruiser in town. — KELSEY CHRISTENSENWINDSOR — If you go anywhere in town with Windsor Police Detective Jennifer Frank, you notice right away that the officer misses nary an opportunity to commiserate, greet, and help anyone she may run into. It’s no wonder, then, that Frank was named American Legion Law Enforcement Officer of Year in the State of Vermont last month.


“It was an awe-inspiring moment,” she said of accepting the honor. “It’s very rare that you stand in front of a room full of heroes. It was humbling.”


Frank has been working with the Windsor Police Department for over two years as Resource Officer in Windsor schools and as a Special Investigations Unit (SUI) officer.


The detective almost didn’t make it into Windsor at all — she pursued her current position because it was advertised as a patrol spot and a resource officer, but later in the application process, doubt was cast upon whether the resource officer component would kick in right away, or merely exist as a possibility in the future.


“I actually turned it down because I knew what I wanted to do,” Frank said.


Frank loves working with kids. Before becoming a law enforcement officer, she was actually working as a high school social studies teacher.


“Most kids know when they’re five that they want to be cops,” Frank said. “I was not one of those kids.”


Still, Frank says law enforcement and teaching high school aren’t all that different because, in each case, you’re educating the public. Now, as a high school resource officer, the two backgrounds meld together easily.


“I have the coolest job,” Frank said. “Sometimes I almost worry people will find out about it and say, ‘wait, that can’t be a law enforcement job.’”


Frank works in the schools, which gives her the opportunity to craft law enforcement-related assignments for the kids. When elementary English students were learning parts of speech, for example, she crafted a police-themed mad-libs assignment. When she’s visited math classes, she’s given students math problems that have to first be decoded, and then solved.


But, more importantly, Frank gets to help prevent crime in the community by working with its future populations.


“By being in a school, you’re not reactive, you’re proactive,” Frank said.


She recalls times in which she’s been aware of police visiting a student's parents the previous evening, at which point she can advise the student’s teachers, for example, that they might need extra space that day.


“Often times, people’s only interaction with the police is in bad situations, and the concept of ‘protect and serve’ gets lost. One of the best advantages of being a resource officer is that people learn that you’re someone they can come to for help,” Frank said.


Frank isn’t just a great resource for kids, however. She’s also a great example of women in law enforcement. When she became the Legion’s Officer of the Year in Vermont, she was the first female officer to do so. But, she says, she’s never been treated differently in her male dominated field.


“I’ve been very fortunate. No one has ever treated me differently because I’m a woman,” she said. Though, Frank does point out that there are some surprising difficulties of being a female law enforcement officer, like finding the uniform your department issues in a feminine cut.


According to FBI data, women make up just 12 percent of the force. But, Frank says, society is changing when it comes to women in the police force. She recalls a charming story in which a young girl, with whom Frank works as a resource officer, presented a drawing to Frank.


“What’s this?” Frank asked. “It’s the police,” the girl replied.


Frank noticed that a circle indicating a bun — like her own signature chignon, which sits atop Frank’s head everyday — was atop every officer in the illustration.


“Are these all girls?” Frank asked. “Yes!” replied the girl.


When Frank isn’t in schools, she’s working as an SUI officer, dealing primarily with cases of sexual assault and juvenile crimes, which is similar to the work she was doing when she got her career start in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Through a grant with the U.S. Attorney General, Frank’s first stint in her 10-year-long career in law enforcement was as a special investigator working with sexual assault, domestic violence, and child pornography.


Prior to working with the Plymouth Police Department, Frank went to Gordon College to study political science, and then completed pre-law coursework at Harvard. Most recently, Frank earned a doctorate from Plymouth College.  


Frank credits her success in her job to her love for the work.


“If you do something you love, you’re going to excel,” she said. “This job is all-in. It’s not nine to five. It can be easy to become hardened, jaded, or depressed. But if you genuinely care about the people, it doesn’t matter.”


Frank doesn’t just love law enforcement: she gushes about the community she serves, too.


“Windsor is an underrated community,” she said. “There’s an authenticity to people, because they’ve lived here forever. People who aren’t here are missing out.”


Following her designation as the Vermont officer of the year, Frank will be nominated to be considered for the title of American Legion Officer of the Year on the national level. Though the convention won’t happen until 2018, Frank is looking forward to it.


“Anytime you get an opportunity to gather with other officers, it’s awesome,” Frank said. “And, it’s good for people to see the Windsor Police Department doing great things.”

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