Both the Becker and Big Lake Police Departments have hired female officers in the last year. While it is not the first time female officers have served in the community, it has been some time since a female officer was on staff at either department.
In honor of police week, the Patriot interviewed both officers to see how they are settling into the job.
Officer Jennifer Franzen has been working with the Big Lake Police Department since January of this year. She is originally from Brainerd. She attended school at Central Lakes College where she majored in criminal justice. She also attended the police academy at Central Lakes.
Franzen said she has wanted to be a police officer since middle school, as it’s always been her dream to be the one who is there for people on their worst days.
So far, Franzen has enjoyed her time in the department.
“They’re a bunch of great guys,” she said of her fellow officers who have trained her since she joined the force.
This is the first time Franzen has served in a police department, and she said that she was “very green” when she first joined, but she was in good hands with the veteran officers of the department. Franzen said she learned so much during her first few months at the department that she was always exhausted by the end of her shift, but in a good way.
“It was awesome to learn so much every day,” she said.
Franzen thinks that female officers are very important to public safety. People tend to interact differently with women than they do with men, and Franzen said this has already helped to de-escalate some situations. She noted one instance in particular when a suspect was speaking aggressively to her male partner, but broke down and confessed when she spoke to him.
She said having a female officer can also be helpful on domestic calls, when there may be individuals, such as children or women, who feel more comfortable with a female officer.
Franzen said she’s glad to see more women in the area getting involved in law enforcement.
Officer Jenna Voigt was sworn in as an officer of the Becker Police Department in February of this year, but she had served as a reserve officer for some time before that. Voigt graduated from Becker High School in 2019. She attended St. Cloud State University where she earned her Associate of Arts Degree in 2019, graduating summa cum laude. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice in 2020 (with a minor in political science and a concentration on 21st century policing), again graduating summa cum laude. She also graduated from the SKILLS Law Enforcement Training from Anoka Technical College in 2021. She is working towards her Master’s of Public Administration degree, and will graduate later this year.
Voigt says she has always wanted to pursue a career in public service.
“There are incredible opportunities to make a difference in a community, and people’s lives, when working in law enforcement,” Voigt said. “I have been fortunate to have role models in law enforcement that have inspired me for many years.”
Voigt said her biggest takeaway from her nearly three years with the department (as a reserve officer and as an officer) was that all the risks that come with the job are balanced by the opportunities to help the community and make a difference.
“Keeping the community safe while engaging and interacting with community members is a privilege,” Voigt said.
Voigt said there is a great need for more female officers in law enforcement, as sexual assaults and domestic violence are reported more frequently when victims can talk with a female officer.
“Victims in these situations are often more comfortable talking with a female officer,” Voigt said.
She also maintained that women can offer different skill sets from their male colleagues, often possessing natural interpersonal communication and problem solving skills.
“I believe a diverse police force benefits the community and helps in building community relationships,” Voigt stated.
Voigt said the support she has received from the community and the experiences she’s had have been amazing so far.