Four Idaho Falls Police Department officers are receiving promotions this Christmas, including the first woman officer to become a sergeant in the department’s history.
Sgt. Jessica Marley has worked with the Idaho Falls Police Department for 16 years, and will join Sgt. Tim Downs, Sgt. Jed Lewis and Lt. Scott Killian in a promotions ceremony on Dec. 28.
Marley has worked on the department’s SWAT team for nine years and also has worked in warrants and as a detective. She said there wasn’t a single event that inspired her to seek a career in law enforcement.
“I think it’s more of a calling than a career,” Marley said.
As part of the promotion process, the candidates had to find areas of improvement for the police department that can be solved with community policing. Marley identified high-crime areas where officers could develop relationships with residents to help build trust.
“You’re getting to know the people; you’re getting out of your car and getting to know them before you’re responding to a crime. You develop relationships so that they’ll tell you what’s going on in their particular neighborhood,” Marley said.
Before becoming a police officer, Marley worked for five years as a child abuse investigator at the Department of Health and Welfare. She still works as a clinical social worker helping those with mental health problems, and though it’s a separate job from her police work, Marley said she often applies what she’s learned about mental health while on the job. She decided to switch to police work to have a greater impact on the community.
As a detective, Marley has worked on several difficult cases, including the year-long investigation of Robert Saad Sr., who was accused last month of murdering his infant son in 2016.
IFPD Chief Bryce Johnson said he first met Marley during the eclipse while he was still transitioning to the department.
“She’s really good at what she does,” Johnson said. “She did really good at all the testing and she came towards the top.”
Marley said she was inspired by former Idaho Falls Police Chief J. Kent Livsey, who was in charge of the department for her first several years on the force.
“He was very good at changing my perspective when things got difficult,” she said.
The Idaho Falls Police Department has four women officers including Marley, two of whom were hired in the last year, on a police force of 90. Johnson said that number is below the national average for medium-sized police departments, where 11 to 12 percent of applicants are women.
Marley said her achievements and the achievements of the other officers being promoted should be judged on their merits, not gender.
“I do the same job. There’s been no breaks for me and no breaks for them,” Marley said. “We’re judged on the same criteria.”
Marley and Johnson said the department should reach out to women as potential police officer candidates because they can provide different perspectives than the male officers.
“We’re a little bit behind the national average,” Johnson said. “We need to do a better job of reaching out and trying to recruit great female applicants to come be police officers. I think if we’re able to do that, we’ll see more promotions in the future.”
Reporter Johnathan Hogan can be reached at 208-542-6746.