Ride Along: On Patrol with Police Chief Maureen Rush

Maureen Rush is the Vice President of Public Safety and Superintendent of Penn Police at the University of Pennsylvania and was one of the first female police officers in Philadelphia. She took the road less traveled to get into law enforcement after becoming interested in the career after talking to officers about the opportunity to help the community overcome the rape crisis that plagued the city. Around that time, as part of a consent decree, the Department of Justice required the Philadelphia Police Department to run a two-year pilot program of 100 women and 100 men to study whether women were as capable as men to work street patrol. She applied to the Philadelphia Police Department and was hired as one of the first 100 women admitted to the Police Academy. After completing the academy, Maureen was assigned to work in North Philadelphia. Though circumstances were difficult and women were provided few resources, she was one of 70 women who survived academy and the pilot.

After eighteen years in the Philadelphia Police Department, and rising to the rank of Lieutenant, Maureen retired and joined Penn as the Director of Victim Services. She became Chief of Penn Police and then in 2000 was appointed as Vice President for Public Safety, now managing seven different departments. She’s also involved in many nonprofit boards around the city, including chairing the Philadelphia Police Foundation, which raises money for the strategic needs of the Philadelphia Police Department and the Police Athletic League Board. A typical day involves a morning full of checking reports based on what happened the previous night and pivoting her workflow based on that information, as well as strategic planning and operational meetings with other vice presidents and her boss, the executive vice president of the university. The job keeps her busy and she loves that every day is different.

When asked what it means to be one of the first female police officers in Philly, she said, “I’m proud to have been a part of the first cohort of women from the Department of Justice pilot that helped to pave the way for 1800 female police officers.” She learned from the hardships, particularly how to treat people, which helped to set her up for future leadership positions.

Her advice to women interested in law enforcement is universal and poignant. Here are her top four pieces of wisdom:

  1. Your reputation proceeds you. You’re building your reputation every day, so make sure it precedes you in a positive way.
  2. Show, don’t tell. As a minority, you may have to work twice as hard to get your voice heard. So show people what you’re capable of and what you want out of that position. Never get discouraged.
  3. Help others. Always help someone else coming up the ladder, because you will know exactly how they feel in that situation.
  4. Find the person who you believe is doing the job in the best way possible and emulate them. Especially when there are few people who look like you or are in your situation, it’s important to take inspiration from them and be positively influenced by those who are doing it right.

When in the Philadelphia Police Department, there were no women above her doing what she was doing, so she emulated her male supervisors whom she felt were the type of cop she wanted to be. In everything from their professionalism to how they carried themselves, she found a way to learn from their example and mentorship. The most exciting part of the job for Maureen is that no day is similar to the day before. Having such a dynamic position means that she never has a chance to get bored. She balances the information received from active patrolling with the strategic vision expressed through her organizational management to continue her mission to have a positive impact on the community.

Contributor: Megha Keshav

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