Saline’s first female police officer was presented with her old badge Monday.
Jeanne Hess was hired as dispatcher in 1975 and then, after completing the police academy, she spent 9 more years on patrol, working the midnight shift in the City of Saline, before becoming the city’s assessor.
Hoping for a keepsake, she’d been asking police department officials about her old badge for quite awhile. Recently, Saline Police Chief Larry Hrinik located the badge. Monday, he was happy to hand the shiny, silver shield to Hess.
Hess is proud of her 10 years on the force. In the early 1970s, as a single mother, Hess worked part time driving school bus, lunch hour at McDonalds and helped out at the Saline Reporter.
“I needed a better paying job. I was working three jobs trying to support my kids,” Hess said. She learned of a program that helped underemployed people find work and, with the help of Police Chief Jim Levleit, she landed a job as a dispatcher with the department. She was the first female dispatcher in the department. She worked a year as dispatcher. During that time she completed the 13-weeks police academy program in Wayne County. Levleit hired Hess as Saline’s first officer in the police department.
Proud daughter Cindy Aikans was in high school when her mother began working.
“She was a divorced parent so she took the midnight shift. She worked while we slept and when we went to school she slept,” Aikans said. “She was this little woman, at 5’3, breaking up bar fights. She had to fight for respect. She had to fight for her position in the academy and to stay on the force. A lesser woman might not have fought as hard.”
Hess didn’t speak of the struggle, instead focusing on the things she enjoyed about police work.
“I loved the interaction with the people. My fellow employees…the guys were great,” Hess said. “I heard stories about how some of the sheriff’s deputy galls would have to wait for back up to show up. But I never had that problem.”
If Hess has a regret, it’s that she didn’t start in law enforcement until she was 35.
“I wish I’d have started in my twenties. I would have liked to have had a career in law enforcement,” she said.
After 10 years on the job, Hess found the physical demands more challenging.
“It was a little harder chasing the Boysville kids,” she said. “I had a back issue, too, from trying to use my foot to push a telephone pole out of the road.”
There were a few harrowing moments along the way. During one winter storm, Michigan Avenue was iced over. Hess was on patrol when she stopped to help people involved in a crash.
“All of the sudden a big semi came out of nowhere and tore the door off my car. Somehow, I ended up on the berm, but I can’t remember how I got there. The adrenaline must have taken over,” Hess recalled.
After 10 years in an SPD uniform Hess put her real estate background to work and became assessor for the City of Saline.
Hess is proud of being the first female officer in the Saline Police Department.
“I feel like I helped open up the door for the women behind me,” she said.
Indeed. When Hess joined the city, the department hired young Bridget Seames. Today Seames is the longest serving officer in the department. She became the first female to achieve sergeant’s rank.