by SUSAN M. BRACKNEY
Bloomington frequently has a pull on former residents, and Jill Lees, recently named Indiana University Police Department chief of police, is no exception. She’s returning to the city 25 years after graduating from the IU Police Academy. Lees earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from IU. “I worked as an IU Police Department cadet from 1993 to 1995,” Lees says. “Then I worked at Plainfield [Police Department] for almost 24 years.”
Originally from Hammond, Indiana, the 45-year-old started as a patrol officer in Plainfield and worked her way up to deputy chief. She also became a trained hostage negotiator and police chaplain.
The new IU chief brings additional skills to the position. “My strong suit is that I came from an accredited police agency, and Indiana University wants to become an accredited police department,” Lees explains. “That’s where my area of expertise comes in.” Lees is a team leader for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
Why seek accreditation? Lees says accreditation reduces liability risks and increases professionalism. “You’re following national standards,” Lees says. “[Accreditation] has a lot of checks and balances. If you’re not accredited, then you might not have policies on certain things that you need to.”
Lees says she always hoped to return to Bloomington. “I have a passion for law enforcement but also for Indiana University,” she says. “I’m an outsider, but not really. … I’m just so happy I was able to come back.”
She says she’s noticed differences between the IUPD of the ’90s and today. Back then, officers worked 8-hour shifts, not the 12-hour shifts they work now. And today’s IUPD includes motorcycle and K-9 units; neither was here back in her cadet years.
When she’s not on the job, Lees spends time with her fiancé, her son, and a canine of her own. “My bulldog, Diesel, is my pride and joy,” she says. “It’s very important to have a work-life balance when you’re in law enforcement.”