2008-07-17 / News

Officer Catlow promoted to sergeant at special ceremony

By Sam Bari

Smithfield Police Officer Greg Catlow pins a badge on his wife, Jamestown Police Sgt. Karen Catlow at her promotion ceremony.  Photo by Sam Bari Smithfield Police Officer Greg Catlow pins a badge on his wife, Jamestown Police Sgt. Karen Catlow at her promotion ceremony. Photo by Sam Bari Town Council President Julio DiGiando presented Jamestown Police Officer Karen Catlow with her certificate of promotion to sergeant at a brief ceremony preceding Monday's Town Council meeting.

Sgt. Catlow, with the department since 2002, said she was pleased to get the promotion. Catlow's duties include field training officer, school liaison officer, and RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) officer.

As a field-training officer, Catlow accompanies new officers on patrol when they join the department. "I familiarize them with the town, and teach them department policy so they know how we handle different situations in Jamestown," Catlow said. Every department has its own techniques and it is important for new officers to understand the way the department does things, she added.

"We like to send new officers out with a field training officer for the first few weeks so we can watch and help them as they work. We stay with them until we feel they are comfortable to go out on their own," she said.

Being the school liaison officer is one of Catlow's favorite duties. She enjoys interacting with children. She feels that establishing good relationships with school-age children is one of the most important parts of her job. "They are most impressionable when they are young," she said. "If we make an effort to befriend them so they understand that we are people just like everybody else, they will have a good perception of police officers when they are older," she added.

Sometimes parents who have a bad experience with the police when they were younger, paint a negative picture to their children. Consequently, they grow up wary of policemen, Catlow said. "We can rectify that by interacting with them and showing them a positive side."

Catlow said she feels sorry for children who have to see policemen come to the door and take their father or mother away because they are in trouble. "Sometimes that's the only experience they have with police. It's important that we connect with those kids by forcing positive interaction," she said.

Last year the police union sponsored a trip to Six Flags amusement park for a group of Jamestown offi cers and a busload of school children. "I'm not sure who had a better time, them or us. We just hung out with them all day, and had fun," Catlow said. She said she looks forward to more of those trips because it is the most effective way of establishing positive relationships. Children need to know that police officers are friendly, approachable and human.

When she was in high school, Sgt. Catlow took a RAD class and remembered how much it opened her eyes to the dangers that are not always obvious. After she joined the department, she took a RAD training course in East Providence. Now she teaches the class one or two times a year to women in Jamestown.

"The class is always full. We will probably offer it more often in the future," she said. "People have no idea how many women have avoided serious harm or worse by taking one of those classes."

Catlow said that being a sergeant puts her in a leadership position where she can use the most effective technique she knows. "Lead by example," she said. Setting a good example for other officers and extending that example into the community for people to see is infectious, she said. "People need to know what is expected of them, and if people in leadership roles set good examples, those who look to them for guidance won't learn another way," she said.

The sergeant tells new officers that the police department is responsible for sustaining the quality of life in Jamestown. Upholding the law and keeping the peace is best accomplished with good judgment and sensible decisions, she said.

Catlow, 32, was born in Woonsocket, where she grew up and graduated from high school. She attended Rhode Island College and Community College of Rhode Island where she earned an associate's degree in criminal justice.

While in college, she looked into applying for a job as a police officer. The only police officer in her family, she said that none of her friends were police officers. She just decided that was what she wanted to do, she said.

"I think I wanted to be a police officer because I enjoy helping and interacting with people and I could never sit behind a desk all day," she said.

She went to work for the Department of Environmental Management as a park ranger while she was waiting for an opportunity to join a police department. That's where she met her husband Greg, who is an officer with the Smithfi eld Police Department.

"We went to the academy together," Catlow said. "I was hired in Jamestown and he got a job in Smithfield where his father was a policeman."

The Catlows have been married for two years. They live with their Old English bulldog Toby in Burrillville.

"I love my job," Sgt. Catlow said. "I look forward to going to work every day because every day is different. I couldn't ask for a better department. We're like a family."

When she isn't working, Catlow and her husband enjoy camping and "anything to do with the great outdoors," with their dog, she said.

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