Recognizing Civilians

Lt. Jennifer Warshawsky, Police Officer Supervisor, Fort Lee Provost Marshal Office

Position: Police Officer Supervisor

Duties: Oversees day-to-day operations and all personnel in the Fort Lee Emergency Communications Center (Fire/EMS/Police/911).

Hometown: “Ohio born, but Richmond raised.”

Length of time in federal service and in military if you served: “Four years in the military police; the last two at Fort Lee with the 217th MP Detachment. Then I spent a year working as a dispatcher for the Virginia State Police. In 2005, I was hired as a DA Civilian Police road patroller. So, I have almost 20 years combined.”

One of your biggest career accomplishments: “Since I was in kindergarten I wanted to grow up to be a police officer. So, I would say my biggest accomplishment is actually having the opportunity to call law enforcement my career.”

Biggest personal accomplishment: “I received physical and legal custody of my sisters when they were 12 and 14 years old. Not having kids of our own, my husband and I were ‘winging it’ while both doing shift work. We all managed to survive our ‘learn as you go’ parenting skills. They are now 19 and 21 years old, doing well, working and living on their own.”

The aspect of your job that challenges you most: “The Fort Lee Emergency Communications Center is a 24/7 operation. Managing the schedule, training requirements, range qualifications and dispatch certifications can be a little daunting at times. Luckily, I have a team that really pulls together to meet the mission and make all of these things happen.”

The aspect of your job you like the most: “No two days are ever the same.”

What is your strength in leading the people you supervise? “I really try to acknowledge each team member’s different perspectives and ideas, and involve them in decisions when I can. I know that even though I am very experienced in emergency communications, it doesn’t mean one of them might have a better idea on how to handle something.”

What advice would you give co-workers during this stressful time? “Do not shut down. Physical social distancing does not mean total social distancing. Even though you might be handling things well, not everyone is, and a phone call or short video chat might mean the world to someone else.”

What advice would you give the community to help them through emergencies? “When you call 911, we have to ask questions to make sure we are sending the right people and equipment to help with your situation. Do everything you can to not hang up, even if that means setting the phone down. Keep the line open until the emergency call handler releases you. During COVID-19, there are additional yes or no questions my team will be asking. This helps the responders determine the best way to approach the call, keeping everyone’s safety in mind. Rest assured that this line of questions is not delaying the responders, and any medical information that is disclosed is handled discreetly and by HIPPA standards.”

What/who is helping you make it through the COVID-19 challenges? “Keeping a semi-normal schedule at home. It would be too easy to get off work and sit at home scrolling through the depressing news and falling into a rut. Even though my husband and I can’t go to the movies or bowling on Sunday afternoons like we used to, we still keep that time reserved as our date time. That means we might take our dogs for a long walk at Pocahontas State Park and get curbside pickup from our favorite local restaurant.”

What, if anything, are you missing right now? “Toilet paper! Just kidding. I really miss having the freedom to go where I want, when I want, without having to think of the impact that a simple outing could have.”

What is one thing that makes you smile, especially now? “I love seeing the community pulling together to support each other. The people on post who are donating their time to make masks, or chalk art, or drive-by birthday parties. I think that’s fantastic.”

What would surprise people to know about you? “I’ll keep that a surprise!”

Favorite quote or saying: “Excuses validate our choices. They let us off the hook and give us permission to fail.” (Maria Kang)

What’s the first thing you plan to do when things return to normal? “Hopefully, it is still warm when we return to ‘normal.’  I would really like to go on a double-date picnic at the beach with my best friend and her husband. … I’m dreaming of warm sand, the ocean, fried chicken and homemade pickles.”