Jennifer Knight, Columbus Deputy Police Chief, is a part of the small but increasing number of female police officers across the United States that has grown from 3% to 13% since 1970. Her specific leadership role as Deputy Police Chief categorizes her into an even smaller percentage of the 2% of women who are police chiefs. As an advocate of female officers and the advantages they can bring as leaders in law enforcement, Knight shares the following advice for women moving into leadership ranks in law enforcement:
- Find a Mentor
“Find a mentor. Sometimes that’s not easy, but there are women in leadership ranks who can be mentors. Actively seek out those individuals and talk to them. It is so important that you have somebody there to ask questions, to talk to when you face specific challenges in your career, to have somebody to look up to and to know that you will be able to get to those positions if you put in the work,” said Jennifer Knight, Columbus Deputy Police Chief.
- Diversify Skills and Experience
This is critical for any officer building a career, regardless of gender. Many police officers fall short of diversifying their skills and experience due to spending too much time on one assignment. For example, dedicating all efforts to gangs and narcotics to the point where administrative assignments decline does not benefit the skills and experience needed on an executive level. Officers leveling up in ranks should incorporate skill growth in areas such as administration, budgeting, human resources, support servicing, and grasping the jurisdiction’s procurement and legislation processes used to keep law enforcement agencies running backstage.
- Be a Student of Leadership
Developing leadership skills is vital for women moving into executive ranks in law enforcement. Knight considers leadership as one of her passions and says that being a student of leadership allows her to maintain a growth mindset that is always eager to learn how to be better. Anyone can start by learning how to fine-tune the elements that build leadership skills, such as democracy, critical and strategic thinking, and communication. Enhancing communication skills through free webinars, workshops, or classes can add to being a better communicator as a leader and when interacting with the public as a representative of the law.
- Help Improve Police-Community Relations
Women officers have the impressive capability of improving police-community relations, which is critical during this day and age. IACP’s Police Chief Magazine published an article stating how women are consistently rated as trusted by their communities and their high interpersonal skills translate into more effective field practices.
Out of all her tips of advice, Knight states that her first point, finding a mentor, is the most essential.
“I think that having a mentor is one of the most important things that you can have when you’re considering moving up in law enforcement. And for those individuals that are in positions of leadership out there. I challenge you to find women that are coming up through the ranks and mentor them, actively seek them out, support them and advocate for them every single day,” said Knight.
About Jennifer Knight
Jennifer Knight, Deputy Police Chief in Columbus, Ohio, is known for dynamic leadership, innovative community engagement, and excellence in the field of law enforcement. After earning her Juris Doctor, she received the National Women’s Law Association Award of Excellence. Ms. Knight is a strong advocate for women in law enforcement and is a passionate community volunteer.