VANDALIA — The Vandalia Division of Police made a bit of history Wednesday morning when it promoted Jenny Chiles to become the department’s first female sergeant.
Chiles was sworn in by City Manager Jon Crusey before a large crowd of friends, family, fellow police officers, and city staff.
“My family and friends mean everything to me, and as you can tell, they all showed up to support me which means so much to me,” said Chiles.
Chiles has served as a police officer in Vandalia since 2004 and as a detective for the past three years. She has twice been awarded the Officer of the Year for the department, most recently in 2015. In that year, she also received the department’s Meritorious Service Award.
Her promotion comes after a competitive process designed to be as objective as possible according to Police Chief Douglas Knight. He said the three step process seeks to get the best candidate possible. Each element is one third of a total score possible.
“We try to be as objective as we can,” said Knight. “We had five very talented candidates. Any one of those five will one day be a wonderful sergeant. Jenny simply rose to the top through the selection process.”
The first step is a group evaluation by the candidates’ supervisors and their supervisors using the department’s internal evaluation protocol. The high and low score for each candidate is thrown out and the other scores are added together.
Next is an interview panel that includes the Police Chief, City Manager, a representative recommended by the candidates, and police chiefs from two police departments outside of Vandalia. Each candidate is asked the same set of 10 pre-determined questions and scored by each interviewer.
The final step is as assessment center that evaluates leadership behaviors through a series of simulation exercises.
Chiles finished first in all three categories.
Vandalia has had female police officers since 1979, but Knight said Chiles is the first sworn officer to go through the promotion process.
“We have had many talented women in civilian managerial positions going back probably 40 years, almost since the inception of the police department,” said Knight. “Policing has been, heretofore, a male dominated profession, and although we have had several female officers during that time, Jenny is the first to express an interest in going through the promotion process.”
Chiles said that she is proud to be a Vandalia police officer.
“I may not have been born a Vandalian, but I am definitely a Vandalian,” said Chiles. “This is where I belong, this is my home, and this is my city.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.