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The force behind our local law enforcement

By NEESEY PAYNE

neesey@southwesttimes.com

With her sweet smile, kind heart and sense of humor, it’s no wonder the chief calls her the “face” of Pulaski Police Department. But what makes Officer Megan Jennings special, is not what’s merely visible. It’s the insurmountable strength, determination and willpower she carries within her.

“I think I always wanted to (be an officer) but had doubts because of my size,” said Jennings who refers to herself as “fun size” standing at 5’4.”  She attended Wytheville Community College, where she took police science courses. People say fate has a way of working things out for us, in Jennings’ case, fate was in her favor.

“I was supposed to do an internship with juvenile probation. Somehow things got mixed up and I ended up doing an internship with Galax Police Department . . . and that was the turning point,” she said.

Jennings explained the time she spent during her internship talking with police officers and going on ride-alongs influenced her greatly.

She made up her mind to protect and to serve, and she wasn’t going to stop until she reached her goal. While in college, Jennings worked two jobs so that she could afford to put herself through the police academy.

Upon graduating, it was time for Jennings to put her willpower to test at New River Criminal Justice Training Academy, during what is commonly referred to as “hell week.”

“It’s as bad as it sounds,” said Jennings. “They’re really hard on us. Your uniforms have to be perfect, your shoes better be shined and things have to be just right,” Jennings said.

The first and toughest week she would face during her training was over. “I thought to myself, ‘You made it this far, don’t give up now,’” Jennings said.

For six months she endured the grueling training process. There was only one other female in her class. Jennings said being surrounded by men challenged her to work harder. “I wasn’t going to be shown up,” she said.

Jennings explained going through the police academy had its challenges both mentally and physically. There were moments of feeling defeated, having self-doubt, and wanting to give up, but every day she somehow found the strength within to keep going.

It was Jennings’ determination that earned her the Most Improved Award upon graduating from the academy in December 2008.

“By the end of it I was much stronger and smarter,” she said. “Training was hard. It was very intense. Looking back on it now it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot.”

Jennings said the academy equipped her with the fundamentals she needs to assess situations and be tactical.

In February 2009, Jennings was hired by Pulaski Police Department. Chief Gary Roche couldn’t be more proud of her. He believes she is “essential to the agency’s public service mission.”

“Officer Jennings is very intelligent and energetic. She is always optimistic about her position and can take a vague concept of a project, design the parameters, and make it happen.  She is exceptional at multitasking, which is an essential skill in her unit,” Roche said.

Jennings recently earned the distinction of Crime Prevention Specialist through the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services—a goal she has been working toward since 2010. Her next project is to make the town of Pulaski a Certified Crime Prevention Community—something Roche has no doubt she’ll accomplish.

“Officer Jennings is a professional law enforcement officer that truly cares about providing important services to the various segments of our community. She has a ‘can do’ attitude and the ability to discharge her responsibilities without constant direction. Everyone enjoys working with her and I have no doubts that she will complete the process for Pulaski to be certified as a Crime Prevention Community,” Roche said.

Jennings loves serving in Pulaski. She said it reminds her of her Galax hometown. She is always out and about, visiting schools, holding neighborhood crime watch meetings and helping community members in any way she can.

But when her duties are done and the uniform comes off, Jennings is just a down home country girl.

She enjoys the comforts of home, roaming the outdoors and playing with her dogs. Jennings loves the summer time and will trade in a pair of jeans for a sundress any day. Her favorite color is yellow.

She takes pleasure in the simple things in life—drinking sweet tea on her front porch, eating good old-fashioned country food, and four-wheeling across the countryside.

Jennings likes to travel. She has an optimistic soul and a free spirit.

What’s on her bucket list? Learning to fly an airplane and eventually taking a big leap out of one.

But most importantly, what means the world to Jennings is her family. “Every Sunday we get together and have themed dinners where we all dress up. We’re very close and I love them all,” she said.

It’s our experiences that shape the deepest part of our being. Sometimes we never know the great strength that is within until it is truly tested. It has been said, “We must do that which we think we cannot.” Jennings is the definition of perseverance.

“Don’t ever give up. You can do anything you set your mind to,” she said.