Improving someone’s day by keeping them safe is a standout feeling for Mercer Island Police Department (MIPD) officer Olivia Jensen after she finishes her shift.
Jensen, who graduated from the police academy last November, is one of six women MIPD officers that the department has spotlighted during Women’s History Month in March. The job is an ideal match for Jensen, a self-proclaimed extroverted person who was drawn to a law enforcement career as a child.
“I love getting to interact with people with diverse experiences and stories every day. Volunteering has also been a major interest of mine throughout my life and many aspects of policing are similar to volunteering,” said Jensen, who added that the MIPD chief and command staff encourage constant positive development as officers challenge themselves through education, training and personal growth.
Training is crucial to help Jensen feel capable when quickly responding and reacting appropriately in challenging situations, such as arriving on the scene of an incident and not initially knowing many details.
While Jensen is one of the MIPD’s newest recruits, Jennifer Franklin has filled the roles of officer and emergency manager during her nearly 33 years on the force.
When she came on board in June of 1990, Franklin said, “There was still push back on women in law enforcement, sexual harassment was more prevalent, and you had to be tougher and stronger than your counterparts often to be accepted.”
Franklin, who will be retiring soon from a job where she’s had a positive impact on the Island and made many friends in the community, described how she vanquished the aforementioned trying situations: “I overcame the challenges by not being afraid of standing up for what was right, for always advocating for the victim and always doing the best I could at everything I did — never giving up.”
While the world feels dark at times, Franklin said, she’s thankful to bring some light into it through positive changes while working her critical job.
Two more MIPD women officers offered invaluable insight into their jobs, but chose to remain anonymous for this article.
“I felt the most fulfilling life I could live was one of serving and protecting people,” said one officer, who added that she enjoys working for the agency within the Island community. “It’s a part of our job to engage with some of the darkest aspects of society. This can take a toll on you mentally and physically. I try to overcome this by taking care of my mental health and body as much as I can.”
Another officer, who has relished assignments in the biking, boating, court support and community relations realms, said MIPD employees work to earn the community’s respect and feel appreciated in return.
The officer described what it takes to succeed during one specific aspect of the job: “Sometimes people think it must be a challenge when taking someone into custody being a bit smaller than many of the men. I find that it can be an advantage being smaller as I often depend on demeanor, discussion and listening skills to gain compliance but appreciate our regular training so that I have the skills I need if it comes to that.”
In a recent social media post, the MIPD noted that it highlights the value of women officers, who comprise just 12% of officers in the United States. The post notes the department’s pride in exceeding that statistic and its commitment to recruiting, retaining and promoting stellar officers.
MIPD Chief Ed Holmes said that Islanders have informed him that they appreciate seeing female officers on patrol, and crime victims have told him they were grateful to speak with a female officer.
“I am pleased to see the growing number of women in the policing profession. Female officers bring a very valuable perspective to the profession that has historically been lacking,” said Holmes, adding that he was fortunate to work with former MIPD commander Leslie Burns for 11 years before she retired.