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New York City
March 2002

Chief Joanne Jaffe, NYPD

Factors In Career Choice: Ever since I was a child, I felt a strong desire to work in a profession that makes a difference in the lives of everyday people. By the time I entered college, I had narrowed my options down to social worker or police officer. As I got to know several police officers and detectives, I realized that joining the police department would afford me the greatest opportunity to take a truly active role and become a positive influence in other people’s lives.

Pivotal Point: When I first joined the police department, many male officers were hesitant to work with female officers on patrol. I befriended another female rookie officer and we requested assignment together as “sector (radio car) partners.” Having two female officers on patrol together was very uncommon at the time (1980). There was a lot of pressure to back down from the request, but we stood our ground and got our chance. On our first radio car tour together we felt a tremendous burden to prove ourselves. We responded to an armed stick-up and made the arrest. We walked the gunman into the precinct past the disbelieving stares of our colleagues who had criticized our assignment. This was a pivotal moment mostly because we proved to others and to ourselves that we could do the job. That incident gave me confidence and made me more determined to strive to succeed.

Achievements: In my career I’ve been afforded many opportunities, including the command of three distinct police precincts, a patrol borough (Bronx), and a project to oversee the reengineering of the NYPD Intelligence Division. I’ve served as the executive officer of the Detective Bureau (city-wide detectives), and am currently assigned to head the office that carries out the NYPD’s research projects, planning and policy development initiatives. I can sincerely say that I am most proud to have had the opportunity to work for, lead, and be associated with so many hardworking, dedicated, and self-sacrificing individuals, in such an important cause.

Obstacles: In 1985, I was promoted to se-rgeant and transferred to a busy Queens stationhouse staffed with many “veteran” officers who had difficulty taking direction from a younger female. I drew on the strength of my friends and family and relied on my knowledge and ability. Over time, I believe that I earned their respect and changed many of their beliefs.

Mentors: Theresa Melchione was one of my teachers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a retired member of the NYPD. She was a true pioneer for women in the police department and she generously shared her wisdom, experience and encouragement with all her students, but mostly with me and other women considering careers in law enforcement. Kathy Burke an experienced investigator also inspired me. She overcame traditional barriers and achieved a true leadership role among her colleagues in the Detective Bureau. I found her courage and dedication inspiring.

Advice: Believe in Yourself. Self confidence is at the root of personal success. Trust your instincts and ability to accomplish tasks. Work hard. Take the necessary steps to achieve your goals. Success doesn’t just happen to people. It requires constant discipline, effort and dedication.

Continue to improve your skills. Never be satisfied. Never compromise your personal values. Put things in perspective and realize that even successful people have setbacks. Never surrender to obstacles. Successful people persevere and continue to move forward. Be supportive and surround yourself with supportive people. Be loyal and share the credit.

Goals: My goals haven’t really changed from when I first joined the NYPD. Although I’ve moved up in rank, and have taken on larger tasks and different responsibilities, I always continue to seek out, and focus on real solutions that make a difference to keep people safe and improve their quality of life.#


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