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By Josh Bootsma
LANSING, Ill. (July 9, 2022) – Lansing Police officer Jennifer Lewis is going back to school this fall. Specifically, she will be based at Memorial Jr. High School in Lansing as District 158’s new School Resource Officer.
Lewis, who has been with LPD since the beginning of the year as a patrol officer, has been training for her new role as School Resource Officer (SRO) come August. The role will have Lewis present at D158 schools every day, responding to situations as needed, interacting regularly with students, and participating in the daily life of the schools.
Lewis, who prefers to be called simply by her last name, is 40 years old and has experience in both interacting with kids and responding to high-intensity police situations.
Growing up in the Old Irving Park neighborhood on the north side of Chicago, Lewis attended Lane Tech College Prep High School. She then served in the U.S. Marines for four years.
“I always knew I was going to join the military. I liked the structure, the camaraderie. I like the rough and tough,” she said.
Lewis then attended Northeastern Illinois University, where she got two bachelor’s degrees, one in community health and wellness, and another in physical education. She then got a job with the Chicago Park District, where she served as an instructor, working with kids as part of the park district’s regular programming.
After 12 years of park district work, Lewis joined the Chicago Police Department, where she worked as a patrol officer and later joined the tactical team. She also taught wellness courses to other officers.
“I’ve seen a lot in the five years I was there that most people probably have never seen,” Lewis said of her time with CPD.
In 2018, a gunman entered Mercy Hospital in Chicago and killed four people, including Lewis’ partner Officer Samuel Jimenez, a tragedy that affects Lewis to this day.
“People think that you’re a robot and you don’t have feelings you have to go through day in and day out on this job,” she said. “It still takes a toll. It changes the way you look at the job and approach certain things. … You have to learn how to slow things down.”
“It made my family call me more,” Lewis said, laughing, “It made them keep in touch more just to make sure I was safe.”
After five years with Chicago PD, Lewis said both the job and the swirl of politics outside of the job caused her to look elsewhere for police work. In January of 2022, she started with Lansing Police.
Unique police role
Although the 40-year-old has not had a job as a School Resource Officer before, she’s confident her combination of police experience, many years of working with kids in a park district setting, and raising her own kids will make her a good person for the job.
“I’m a big believer in signs. I believe that everything I’ve gone through in my life has set me up for the next road I’m taking,” the mother of three said.
One aspect of the job she’s looking forward to is making the law and the rules relatable to kids: “Some people just don’t take the time to really sit down and explain what’s going on [to kids]. Even showing them the rules and regulations. ‘Here’s what it is and what’s written out. And here’s what it means.'”
“There’s plenty of times I’m out there on the street and I’m taking to them on their level,” she said of local kids. “Sometimes you’ve got to code switch and talk to them how they talk, so they understand I’m not over here trying to be overbearing.”
Lewis has already finished SRO school, and is working on a certification to become a juvenile officer. She anticipates some further training on situations like active shooters as well.
“I’m here to not only protect but I’m here to humanize what it is to be a police officer,” she said.
Lewis lives in Chicago with her longtime girlfriend and her girlfriend’s three children.
The Lansing Police Department is located at 2710 170th Street.