SBJ photo by McKenzie Robinson

2020 Most Influential Women: Jennifer Charleston

Springfield Police Department

Posted online

When Jennifer Charleston swore her first Law Enforcement Oath of Honor in 1995, her vision for her future crystallized.

“At that moment, I accepted the responsibility of being a role model for the community members,” she says.

Since joining the Springfield Police Department in 2000, Charleston has inspired others in the department, as well as the greater Springfield community, to take charge of their lives.

“As the only female lieutenant at SPD, I feel it is important for me to make an extra effort to reach out to female sworn and non-sworn personnel,” Charleston says.

She offers an example of a woman she encountered one day while on patrol. Charleston spotted an issue and decided to stop. She learned the woman had no support in caring for her children and was struggling with substance abuse. After many phone calls, Charleston helped connect her with the support she needed and put her on a path to sobriety.

“The woman not only changed her path, but she took on the challenge of changing the lives of others. Once she stabilized her new life, she started serving as a counselor for other women combating substance abuse,” Charleston says.

As a Springfield Police Department leader, Charleston also has empowered other women within the department to further themselves professionally. When a young recruit dropped out of the Police Academy, Charleston took on the role of coach.

She began having short but frequent conversations with the woman, who had taken a non-sworn position within the department. Charleston says these transitions are tough because not only is the former recruit dealing with failure but doing so in a workplace surrounded by those who’ve succeeded.

Eventually Charleston learned the woman wanted to give the academy another shot, but was afraid she’d fail again.

They created a plan to conquer her lack of assertiveness during physical confrontations.

After several months of physical training and reading, the woman took another run at it. She graduated in July and was the class valedictorian.

“I am honored that she considers me her role model. She stated that having a female lieutenant at SPD gives her the confidence that one day she can be promoted to lieutenant,” Charleston says.

At the department, Charleston serves as a leader in many capacities. She works as community Services Section commander and Uniform Operations Bureau Patrol section commander. This year Charleston also was appointed LGBTQ+ liaison for SPD.

Charleston also is professionally active in the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, Fraternal Order of Police and is an alumni of Leadership Springfield.

She is no less busy in the community.

Charleston participates in fundraisers for the Special Olympics, United Way of the Ozarks and Big Brothers Big Sisters, is a member of the Delaware Neighborhood Association and works with neighborhood groups through her involvement in the Neighborhood Advisory Council.