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Law enforcement is in White's blood

Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 2:43 p.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 6)

It’s safe to say Andrea White has law enforcement in her blood.

White, a police officer with the Minooka Police Department, is the seventh law enforcement officer in her family — a line that extends five generations.

Growing up, she admired her family’s dedication to the job, as they endured the sacrifices and risks that go along with serving the community. So, needless to say, it was a natural fit for her when deciding to dedicate her life to protecting the peace.

In January, White was recognized for her efforts when she was awarded Minooka Police Department’s 2012 Officer of the Year award. At that time, Minooka Police Chief Justin Meyer said White was chosen her commitment to traffic safety, her willingness to volunteer time to Special Olympics and for her involvement with the department’s Cadet Program.

Her dedication, though, goes beyond her life in the line of duty. For instance, she is an ardent fitness fanatic who has completed the Chicago Marathon three times, not to mention the fact she knows how to build a car engine.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I grew up in Dwight, Ill. I went to Dwight Township High School and then went to Illinois State University, where I majored in Kinesology and Biomechanics.After graduation, I worked for Newsome Physical Therapy and traveled to their many clinic locations. I was eventually placed at the Channahon clinic, where I worked for several years. I became very familiar with the Channahon and Minooka area during that time.
Q: How and when did you decide to become a police officer?

A: I would have to say law enforcement was pretty much in my blood from birth. I am the fifth generation and seventh law enforcement officer in my family.

I loved hearing my father, uncle Jim and cousin Eric “talk cop” at family gatherings. We would do take downs and pressure points on each other.

At a young age, I realized what being a police officer meant to my family and to the community. I saw the complexity and stress of the job and the “thank yous” and handshakes my father received as part of the job.

I understood the sacrifice all the other generations of my family members made for the job; missing birthdays, holidays and special occasions, working in the worst weather conditions and protecting the life and property of the people and community in which they served.

I knew when I did my sixth-grade science fair project on fingerprinting and how fingerprints are made, and how no two fingerprint patterns are alike, that I had found the love of law enforcement ... like my other family members.

I looked up to my father, uncle Jim and cousin Eric immensely and will always hold them in high regard.

Q: Describe your role currrently with the Minooka Police Department.

A: Currently, I am a patrol officer on the midnight shift. I assist with the Minooka Police Explorer program and volunteer for Special Olympics events.

Q: You have spent five years with the Minooka Police Department. How would you describe your relationship with the community and how would you describe your time with the department?

A: The past five years working in the village of Minooka has been rewarding and enjoyable. I would say I believe that my relationship with the community is one of respect, going both ways from the officers, to the community, and vice versa.

I enjoy hearing stories of how Minooka has grown and how it used to be, My grandmother grew up in Minooka, and I have run across one of her old friends who still lives in Minooka. Growing up in a small town, I enjoy the small town feel and atmosphere, and I respect it. 

My time with the department has flown by. Every shift is different and it’s up to the officer to make of it what they wish.

I like that no matter what the situation or question there is someone there to help. I am a big believer in teamwork in order to get a job done, and I feel the Minooka Police Department has figured out teamwork and group effort.

Q: You have spent five years with the Minooka Police Department. How would you describe your relationship with the community and how would you describe your time with the department?

A: The past five years working in the village of Minooka has been rewarding and enjoyable. I would say I believe that my relationship with the community is one of respect, going both ways from the officers, to the community, and vice versa.

I enjoy hearing stories of how Minooka has grown and how it used to be, My grandmother grew up in Minooka, and I have run across one of her old friends who still lives in Minooka.

Growing up in a small town, I enjoy the small town feel and atmosphere, and I respect it. 

My time with the department has flown by. Every shift is different and it’s up to the officer to make of it what they wish.

I like that no matter what the situation or question there is someone there to help. I am a big believer in teamwork in order to get a job done, and I feel the Minooka Police Department has figured out teamwork and group effort.

Q: You were recognized by Chief Meyer for your willingness to volunteer time to Special Olympics. How do you volunteer to help Special Olympics and why do you choose to do so?

A: Minooka Police Department raises money for Illinois Special Olympics every year. I participate at as many events as I can. I believe in the program and the cause.

I love that we, as a police department, can help as many athletes and families as we do. The program is the most heartfelt and gracious organization and they are genuinely appreciative of what police departments do to fund raise.

I have been to the Special Olympics kickoff in Bloomington, Ill., a couple times and the experience is something completely undescribable, the excitement displayed and the willingness to volunteer for such a great organization fills my heart.

Every year, we, the Minooka police department, host events to raise money. Events coming up are Cop on Top, when we will be taking donations at Dunkin’ Donuts. We also do a Trivia Night, cruise nights and car shows and the participate in the Torch Run. 

Q: What is the Cadet program and how has it benefited the community?

A: The cadet explorer program is a newer program for Minooka Police Department and is in its second year. It offers anyone ages 16-21 who are interested in law enforcement the opportunity to explore and learn about the field.

The Explorer program is based on learning material and taking the book and practical knowledge to competitions where they can compete as a group or individual to win scholarship money. It takes them to regional, state and national competitions.

I feel it has benefited the community by offering a program for that age bracket and offering them the opportunity to learn the profession and earn themselves scholarships to help them in the future. I am honored to work with our departments Director of Community Policing Denis Tatgenhorst. 

Q: You spent two years as a school resource officer at Minooka Community High School. What did you learn from that experience and how has it made you a better officer?

A: The two years as a school resource officer (SRO) opened my eyes to many situations, questions, calls to service and obligations. I learned a lot about juvenile law and school law and how it relates to my job as a police officer.

There were situations, questions and calls to service that cause me to pause, think and say “Hmmmmm, this should be interesting, I will have to work this out as it goes along.”

I learned many valuable things as the SRO, from the educational staff, the support staff and administration along with the students in those two years.

I believe being the SRO led me to listen and communicate better with juveniles as well as to refresh my memory as to what life was like at that age. 

Q: What were your goals when you first became an officer? What are your goals in the future?

A: When I first became a police officer, my goal was to learn the job to the best of my ability and to make sure all of us went home safe at the end of the shift. I want to make myself happy with my job performance and uphold the standards the department expected of me.

My goals for the future are to continue to be happy with my performance and ensure that I am constantly striving to achieve more with my performance. I love going home at the end of the shift knowing that because I worked the previous night, people are safe and happy, I resolved issues for someone and my presence along with my other shift partners presence made people feel safer. I love knowing I made a difference.

Q: You were named 2012 Officer of the Year in Minooka. What does this recognition mean to you?

A: Being Officer of the Year means a lot to me. The whole year, I am not striving for this award by any means, I am simply striving to do the best I can each and every day.

I am humbled by the award and am grateful to share the entire year with different Officers of the Month. Everyone on the department have strengths, and I enjoy seeing what others are capable of accomplishing. I enjoy seeing how others handle situations that are stressful or chaotic and how they provide assistance to the village every day.

I enjoy doing my job, and award or no award, I would be happy with my career decision every day.

Q: What would you consider your greatest accomplishment, whether it be at work or otherwise?

A: I have run the Chicago Marathon three times, last year running for the Chicago Police Department Memorial Foundation. This year, I began Crossfit and have just begun competition for the Crossfit Open Games.

I recently began work on my 1969 Camaro. I found it a big accomplishment to learn to drive the car and to learn how to build an engine from the ground up.

Q: What challenges have you faced, if any, being a woman serving in a role some in the public may perceive as a “man’s job”?

A: Well ... I would say it’s an old belief that law enforcement is a “man’s job.” Police work is not specific to gender or race.

Every officer that works for a police department has something interesting and unique about them and they have something to offer their department. I believe, as a female, I can complete all the requirements that encompass the job title as equally as a male.

Each gender has its strengths and benefits to add to situations. There have been instances where someone requests to speak to a female officer, whether it’s due to the sensitivity of the information of simply their comfort level.

I am lucky to be treated as an equal by my co-workers and am considered “one of the boys.” I would be lying if I said that I am not confronted with challenges as a female law enforcement officer, because I am.

There are people in the world that believe that women cannot be effective police officers, that is where I, and other female police officers come in and show by our words and actions that women are just as effective at doing the job as our counterparts.

Q: What advice would you give to a female student looking to study law enforcement?

A: Advice I have is the following: Get good grades in high school, take science, math, psychology and English very seriously. They WILL be applicable in the future.

If at all possible, get into a vocational school and study law enforcement, i.e. GAVC. Get a college degree — not all departments require a bachelor’s degree, but I think they all soon will. If college is not for you, join the service — military service is honored by departments and carries the same weight as a bachelor’s degree in most places.)

If you intend on testing for a department, find out what they require as far as fitness requirements and push yourself to exceed the standards for the fitness assessment. Test, test, test. This is the only way to get better and have a higher chance of getting on a list and then being hired.

Finally, believe in yourself. Anything you want in the field of law enforcement is available to anyone. All you have to do is believe in yourself and strive to achieve your goals.

—— JUST FOR FUN ——

Q: What is your favorite hobby?

A: Fitness! I love fitness and found out at an early age that it is a good release for my energy. My mother put me in gymnastics at the age of 2, and I continued that through college. Currently, I am doing Crossfit and am LOVING every minute of it. 

Q: What is your favorite music?

A: I listen to all kinds of music. When you are in a car by yourself for 12 hours a night, one station gets old, so I channel hop and can be found making up my own words to songs ... most of the time by accident.

—— JUST THE FACTS —

• WHO: Andrea White

• AGE: 31

• TOWN: Joliet, Ill.

• HOMETOWN: Dwight

• EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in Kinesology and Biomechanics

• JOB: Police Officer, Minooka Police Dept.

• FAMILY: Mom, Julie White; dad, Ken White; and sister, Erinn White.

• HIGHLIGHTS: 2012 Officer of the Year. Completed Chicago Marathon three times

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