NOTE: This is the second in a series profiling officers with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Department of Public Safety.
Behind the Badge feature
Even though she is a self-described farm girl with a fondness for horses, Crime Prevention Officer Jennifer Sibley said only one thing would have prevented her from accepting a job offer with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Department of Public Safety earlier this year.
“I told (UALR Police Chief) Ed Smith that if I had to say ‘no’ to anyone for any reason, I didn’t want to come here,” Sibley said.
“We are all here to serve,” she explained. “We should never have to worry about whose ‘job’ it is if someone needs help of any kind. None of us has a job without these students.”
Fortunately, Sibley’s viewpoint dovetails nicely with that of her new boss.
Both share their personal cell phone numbers with resident assistants and other campus leaders as a matter of routine, and both are firm supporters of community-based policing, which emphasizes enhanced safety through police and community collaboration.
Sibley recently made a move to a centrally located substation housed in Room 105 of Stabler Hall, where she will be stationed full-time and where bike patrol and other officers can check in or take a short break.
The move is part of an overall department effort to decentralize university police operations across campus. This university policing strategy makes Sibley and other DPS officers even more accessible, and it seems to be working.
“I’ve already had students tell me how safe they feel this year because our officers are more visible,” Sibley said, adding that the goal is to eventually open another substation in residential housing.
Sibley points out that 90 percent of crime prevention is heightened awareness and “not placing yourself in a bad situation.”
She does her part by leading such campus-based courses as Rape Aggression Defense, as well as Active Shooter Training. The latter is intended to provide survival strategies for a situation that has unfortunately become far too routine at many college campuses.
“I have a huge passion for women being able to take care of themselves,” Sibley said.
“The same is true for the active shooter training course we offered as part of Campus Safety Week. I want to empower our students… I look at them like they are mine.”
“If I’m able to teach something that will make the campus safer, and I fail to do it, then something is really wrong.”
Sibley got her start in law enforcement in the Arkansas Delta, first as a prison guard, and eventually, a field sergeant responsible for 132 male inmates. Sibley was in her 40s and needed a job after relocating from Hawaii to southeast Arkansas to be near her mother.
She was sent to the required seven-week training and came through with flying colors.
“I am an extremely stubborn person,” she said. “There were a lot of days when I asked myself ‘Why am I doing this?’ I always came up with the same answer: ‘Because somebody has to do it.’”
After three years with the Arkansas Department of Correction, Sibley accepted other law enforcement job offers in northwest Arkansas and was sent to the required 12-week training course offered through ALETA, the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy.
Just weeks before she turned 48, Sibley not only completed ALETA, she finished second in physical training out of a class of 60 officers, the majority of them under 30 years old.
Sibley admits she used to be a shy person before working in law enforcement. Along the way, she acquired confidence and overcame many of her fears.
“A little fear is a good thing, because it can help heighten your awareness,” she said. “You just can’t ever show it.”
Sibley has an arm tattoo with a quote she attributes to Joan of Arc, the folk hero who led the French Army during the Hundred Years’ War.
Perhaps it is the best summary of her law enforcement career so far: “I’m not afraid. I was born to do this.”