If you’re like me, you probably walk around campus and read about alumni and see amazing women doing amazing things and wonder, “What’s her story?” So, I decided to find out. Introducing “What’s Her Story,” an ongoing series profiling amazing women doing amazing things.
Meet the amazing woman behind keeping a campus of over 33,000 students safe, Doreen Jokerst.
Her Campus CU Boulder: Where are you from? What is your background?
Doreen Jokerst: I grew up in Parker, Colorado, graduating from Ponderosa High School. I knew I wanted to be a police officer for a long time, so I volunteered as a police cadet with the Parker Police Department when I was 14 to the age of 20. I really wanted to build relationships, help people, and assist and help those that have been victims of crimes. When I was 20, I attended the police academy, and when I was 21, I was hired on with the Parker Police Department. I worked for the department and community just shy of 20 years. I spent a lot of my time in the patrol division, but I did a variety of assignments like investigations, professional standards and support services. I left Parker P.D. as a Commander to come to CU, where I’ve been the Chief of Police since September of 2018. I have an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice and a Masters Degree in Psychology and have previously taught criminal justice-related courses at Colorado Technical University.
HCCU: Did you always want to be a police officer?
DJ: Yes! When I was eight, we visited a relative in San Francisco (I really love it there!). We toured Alcatraz, and there was a man there who authored a book about his time as an inmate in Alcatraz. When I was older, I saw the movie Silence of the Lambs, and I knew I wanted to work for the FBI. I went to school, expanded my knowledge, but I like to say sometimes life gets in the way of intended goals. I got married and wanted to have kids and really enjoyed working for a police department. I decided to stay with the Parker P.D. instead, which I’m very happy I did, as I never would have ended up at C.U.P.D.!
HCCU: How is working at CU different from working for a municipality?
DJ: What I really enjoy about CU are the partnerships that are built with students, faculty and staff. The calls of service are different at a university, as it’s much more about education and prevention. There are also different legal and reporting requirements. I love being a police officer. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. Lots of people go to work and don’t want to or are in a job or position they do not want. That is not the case with me. With the good days and the bad, I love being a police officer. At the end of the day, I hope I’ve made positive impacts on the lives of others and helped them through the tough and terrible times they may have had.
HCCU: What does your day-to-day look like?
DJ: I have two daughters, so when they ask me about my day, it’s still “Did you make any arrests today?” So, they do not fully understand the different roles of a police officer. Now, it’s really about setting the vision of the organization. I want to make sure people in my department feel empowered to make decisions and use innovation to solve problems. In my mind, leadership is about supporting your employees and setting visions for the department that supports the overall mission of the university. In my mind, leaders serve and support those who serve them. It is truly about taking care of your people and making them better, not yourself.
HCCU: What are some things that have changed since you became chief?
DJ: Right now, we are moving towards starting national police accreditation and researching best practices for different law enforcement functions. If you go to a hospital, you want to go to one that follows all the policies. Police departments have the same thing, but it’s a voluntary accreditation. That means revisiting and rewriting all current procedures as there are hundreds of standards. Additionally, it is not about just saying you do it on paper, but really showing this is how you do it. Assessors will read the policies and procedures and then come into your police department to make sure the standards you have written are actually instilled, practiced and followed. Changing the culture of an organization is not easy, so we had a five-year plan to move towards that. During my tenure, we have already made some positive strides to include increasing technology (so now we have body-worn cameras) and improving efficiency for both civilians, officers, and the records and court system by moving towards implementing e-ticketing. To me, if you’re going to be the best of the best, you should meet the national standards, and I have a great team that has been working hard to achieve these goals. It’s not me, it’s them, and I am truly grateful.
HCCU: What’s been the hardest day on the job?
DJ: The biggest challenge I’ve had was really learning the university dynamics and structure. If you start a new job, you often feel behind and that you’re letting people down, as you’re trying to learn a new way of doing things, so that has been challenging for me. We have also experienced some truly sad tragedies on campus that have impacted our staff and organization. For example, when we have suicides on campus, that’s really hard. So many people are affected, and it doesn’t go away for quite some time. We have a mental health and wellness program within our department, so if something impactful happens there are different resources in regards to counseling and therapy. My job as a leader is to ensure our staff feels supported. I can build out a five-year plan for our department, but if my staff doesn’t believe in it, it will never get done. It’s essential to provide the resources necessary so we are able to fulfill our strategic plan and mission, which, above all, is to ensure safety on this campus.
HCCU: How is C.U.P.D. organized?
DJ: We have just under 100 people that work for this department, so we are considered a medium-sized organization. (50 commissioned personnel or higher is considered medium-sized. For comparison, the N.Y.P.D. is an organization of 36,000 commissioned personnel!). Officers here are certified as Boulder municipal officers as well as the jurisdiction by the state for working on campus. For example, they can write speeding tickets on campus because of their dual certification. The Events and Emergency Management team that reports to me. There is also the Operations Division that is comprised of the Patrol Section (so what people traditionally think of with officers in marked police cars and in uniform) and the Investigations Section, where detectives work extensive criminal cases. The Support Services Division is Dispatch, so that is where they answer both the non-emergency and emergency calls for service. There is also the Records Section, as well as the Property and Evidence Section, which handles property and that comes into the department, as well as, working various crime scenes. Finally, the Office of Professional Standards upholds the integrity of the organization, handling training, recruitment and hiring, and internal affairs.
HCCU: What’s the best part of your job?
DJ: I love meeting new students on campus. I think of it as the trickle effect. Hopefully, I said something positive that will impact a student or educate them about law enforcement. There is sometimes negative media attention that centers around law enforcement that paints the narrative as the totality and it encapsulates what people think about law enforcement as a whole. However, if I can help someone see our actual day-to-day operations and our role, that’s the best part. The police are the community and the community is the police. It is imperative we work together.
Photo: Doreen Jokerst
HCCU: You said that your job is much different than what is portrayed on T.V., so be honest, do you even watch any crime shows?
DJ: Not really, but I like Blue Bloods, which is a show my husband and I watch. My husband and I met in the police academy. He is a homicide sergeant for the Aurora P.D and has always been supportive of my career. He keeps me grounded and always provides me perspectives I might not have considered.
Photo: Doreen Jokerst
HCCU: Have you experienced things differently from male colleagues?
DJ: I got hired on with the Parker P.D. in 1998, so there were not that many women in law enforcement at the time. I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but I’m forever a learner. I took less than favorable assignments to diversify my portfolio and understand different departments of a police department. Working a variety of assignments, I believe, did help with the aspect of it being in a male-dominated field. No matter what, you will always have people who put doubt in you, but when I go to bed at night, I’m able to ask myself “Am I making this police department and university better?” “Did I impact someone positively?” “Am I supporting my staff?” When I can answer yes to those questions, it’s a good feeling.
HCCU: Any fun facts civilians may not know about officers?
DJ: Our gun belt and uniform weigh close to 20 pounds. TV shows portraying police work is not real-life. We also offer ride alongs, so I really encourage students to do one to see what law enforcement does day in and day out. In addition, I welcome any student here to reach out to me if they have questions about law enforcement. I would be more than happy to meet with them and answer any questions they may have.
HCCU: You mentioned your daughters. Do they want to be officers too?
DJ: I’m a police chief, but I’m a mom first! My daughters are 10 and 12, and no, neither want to go into law enforcement whatsoever! But, they are my whole world. I feel so connected to the university because one day, I want my kids to not only attend school here but feel empowered when walking through campus knowing they can always go to a police officer for help.
Photo: Doreen Jokerst
HCCU: What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue something in this field?
DJ: They should know that they’re enough. They can do every job equal to anyone else, even in a male-dominated workforce. I’ve spoken to a lot of women recently at different police conferences for women in law enforcement. I see them on the fence of truly pursuing this career, and I’m able to say, “You’ve made it this far. Don’t give up.” It’s about taking your strengths and building upon them. Surround yourself with people who make you better, not tear you down. You’re doing what you’re doing because you’re good at it and you have a strength for it. Perseverance, hard work, and dedication are so important. Continuing to advance and be uncomfortable is so important, discomfort is where you’re able to grow.
HCCU: How can students be even safer on CU Boulder’s campus?
DJ: It’s about prevention, CU is a relatively safe campus but like anywhere, crime does occur, so we try to teach prevention techniques. Avoid crimes of opportunities, or putting yourself in a position where you’re more vulnerable. Lock doors, cars, bikes, all those things. When walking around at night, be aware and walk with others.
HCCU: What other resources can students access?
DJ: Law enforcement officers are a resource on campus for any questions you may have. They are an ally and a person to go to if you have a question on anything. We are here to educate and assist and help in any which way we can. Some offices on campus are Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 5:00, but C.U.P.D. is 24/7. You can always reach out to me directly, as I love meeting new students and those who make our campus so great!
Photo: Doreen Jokerst
HCCU: I just have to ask. Do you like Zootopia?
DJ: Ha, yes, I do like Zootopia and so do my children. She’s a female police officer! She helps everyone out and doesn’t fit the mold of what people typically think law enforcement needs to be. And at the end of it, she builds relationships and partnerships and works with the community. Because of that, she saves the day!