Early this year, the Vermont State Police announced that Ingrid Jonas was being elevated from the rank of lieutenant to that of captain, the first female in the agency’s history to reach that rank.
Captain Ingrid Jonas joined Vermont Edition to talk about her new role and how she hopes to help shape the agency.
“It’s an honor to be promoted to captain,” Jonas says. “The female aspect of it certainly goes along with feeling honored, but I think it would be nice if we had a day where that wasn’t such a big point.”
As for the agency making a big deal out of her promotion, Jonas says that it has really been focusing on diversity. “I think it’s been the intent of our leadership to promote diversity in our agency, and that our department has set our sights on that and that was their intention for a while,” she says.
Jonas applied for the job because the work seemed new and interesting to her. “It’s a departure from what I’ve done in the majority of my career. But it was something that I felt would be a way to serve the department from behind the scenes, as I get closer to retirement,” she says.
So what will she be doing as commander of the staff operations section? Jonas explains that it’s a lot about maintaining the integrity of the training and recruitment process. “Also developing, making the work appealing to people outside of our department. Making it appealing as something that someone would want to see themselves doing,” she says.
There are currently more than a dozen openings at the Vermont State Police and rumors of budget cuts affecting hiring. “I don’t have the exact answer on that,” says Jonas. “I hear a lot about scary budget cuts, but my intent, and my hope, is to be able to work with my staff to get 15 highly-qualified recruits in our next class.”
What does a highly-qualified recruit look like? Jonas says it has to be someone who is community-minded, passionate and skilled at communication. “Someone that you would feel trusting of if they came into your home to ask you very personal questions about something that happened to you,” she says. But she also points out it’s someone who can take charge of a situation when necessary.
Jonas says to make the work look appealing, she has to lead by example and make the community-minded aspect of the agency most visible. “We have a whole office of professional development that’s centered around these values,” she says. “And we reach out – we want to reach out to diverse communities and talk to people. Have personal, one-on-one conversations about this work and about what skills it requires.”
In training new recruits, Jonas says that they need to be continually looking at how they interact with the community. “I think that can take lots of different training approaches, but basically, not being viewed as robots and not being seen as unapproachable,” she says. “But how do we communicate with, perhaps, more vulnerable populations? How do we work with people with mental illness? How do we work with children? How do we work with people who don’t trust us or have bias against us? How do we eliminate some of those barriers that keep people from trusting us to serve them?”
Jonas has a background in domestic violence intervention, which eventually led her to join the Vermont State Police. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sustain that kind of work. But I still had that sort of justice and safety motivation and I had law enforcement officers who were friends, and who were supportive of me … and who took me on ridealongs and talked to me about what their lives were like. I decided I’d try out and it worked out,” she says.
Jonas spent most of her career as a detective, which she says has been rewarding. “I love that work and it’s so great,” she says. “And I want to do everything I can to promote men and women through the ranks to become great detectives.”