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Virginia Sheriffs’ Association
The Voice of Virginia’s Sheriffs & Deputies

As we commemorate Women’s History Month, it’s essential to recognize the invaluable contributions of women in every profession, including those often behind the scenes. In this special feature, we highlight Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Janie Jenkins, 2023 Dispatcher of the Year Award Recipient, who sheds light on her vital role in safeguarding her community and ensuring public safety. Often the first point of contact in times of crisis, these unsung heroes display unwavering courage, compassion, and resilience as they navigate high-stress situations with professionalism and grace.

In an interview conducted with Kelly Noon, we are delighted to spotlight Janie’s achievements in honor of Women’s History Month. Please continue reading to hear more about all the hard work and dedication she has contributed over the years.

What inspired you to pursue your career/profession, and how do you see it contributing to the advancement of women in your industry?

I was inspired to pursue law enforcement in some capacity after my sister was tragically killed. When I was 14, I lost my 19-year-old sister as a result of a car accident where alcohol was a factor. The loss of someone so close to you as a teenager has a profound effect on your future. As a young, first-time mother at the age of 21, I was informed of an opening at our local Sheriff’s Office. This job included dispatching fire and rescue, Sheriff, and also the safety and security of inmates in the jail. I jumped at the opportunity to be able to have a job that I could in turn help others, as I was once on the other side of the phone, as an affected citizen.

I see my career choice contributing to the advancement of women in this industry, in terms of women understanding they can do or be anything we put our minds to. Hard work is a necessity. When I very first started my career,  hearing of women in higher-ranking positions was a rarity, except in our agency. When I began in 2002, my immediate supervisor was a female Captain, and our Investigator was a female. My Captain retired with 25 years of service and now works part-time for our Communications Center. The female Investigator at the time, has since ended up becoming one of the FIRST FEMALE Sheriffs in the state of Virginia. 

I cannot really tell you what provided me a start in this line of work for others to do the same. What I can say is, I see mothers of all ages single and married. Mothers with children of all ages from infants to adults. I see women pregnant with their first child still working 12 hour shifts on the floor of the Communications Centers. I see pregnant mothers working the desk and not patrol during their pregnancy. I see women advancing and becoming some of the absolute best Communications, Jail, Patrol and Investigating Officers available. 

Can you share any experiences or challenges you’ve faced as a woman in your field, and how have you overcome them?

As a woman, I was the first female Chief Jailer for our county jail. Our Sheriff, who is a woman. promoted me to run it. At that time, our agency divisions were completely split into 3 units: jail, communications, and patrol. We decided to maximize our staff, so we would have them work as partners. Jailers and Communications officers would be cross-trained. This, to me, was a bit of a challenge. I never had a personal issue, but personally, I struggled. I was not confident at first. I knew I understood how to do both jobs, but I had never supervised men before. The largest challenge I faced was from within – wondering if I had the knowledge, experience, and/or strength to oversee a jail full of men, as well as a staff of men. Once I realized I was good enough, it became so much easier. I feel as women, we question our abilities and challenges more than anyone else. We are our worst critic.  Once you can see past that and your confidence is raised, you can move mountains. 

In what ways do you believe your achievements or contributions have made a positive impact on other women or aspiring professionals?

I have two daughters who are young adults. I have worked at this job since my oldest was too young to know anything else. My youngest was born early in my career here. They both have seen me run out of the house in the middle of the night, jump up from the dinner table, work while sick, etc. I hope and pray they see that advancement takes dedication. You are not going to make any advancements in life without being dedicated to your profession. I can see that in both of them. They understand and know that it takes a lot of sacrifices to reach your goals. If I can show them that, both of them succeed, I can say I succeeded.