Lt. Judith Wynn-Neel
I was fortunate in my youth to have a desired career path. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to work in law enforcement. As a teenager, I joined the local township police Explorers. This opportunity allowed me to ride with police officers and attend training sessions to get a real “hands-on” education of life in law enforcement. This also exposed me to the operations of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. I was immediately impressed with the professionalism of each trooper that I encountered. I instantly knew that I wanted to become a trooper, however, I wasn’t the hiring age of 21 yet. After my first year of college, I called the local OSHP post and asked about other employment possibilities to “get me in the door.”
At the time we had a ‘cadet dispatcher” program for those 18-21 and I applied. I passed the entrance exam and background check then started as a dispatcher at the local post. The post commander was very driven to ensure I had a successful career and worked with me to challenge me to be the best. I looked up to several officers as role models and now there are many women within the Division that are looked upon as role models. I also attended college, attained an associate degree in criminal justice, and got married while working as a cadet dispatcher prior to entering the training Academy.
I have developed professionally and personally within the Highway Patrol. My diverse career began as a dispatcher and evolved into a trooper, a criminal investigator, an assistant post commander, a field post commander and now post commander of our criminal investigation office in Cleveland. The Patrol has also enabled me to finish my bachelor’s degree.
I think being a woman in law enforcement is a bonus - we have effective communication skills as well as other talents that assist us in helping our community. Women do face unique challenges while being a trooper that men don’t typically think about. I’m a mother of two and pregnancy along with childcare issues plus shift work can be overwhelming for some. I was fortunate to have a supportive husband, family and “Patrol” family to help out.
Being part of the community is important to me and being part of the Ohio State Highway Patrol gives me the opportunity to do so. I have worked with the SafeKids Coalition, Safe Communities along with other traffic safety organizations. Taking part in traffic safety programs is rewarding, and the ability to see that you are making an impact is priceless.
As a commander, I’m part of county and regional police chief associations. This network allows me to represent the Patrol in community issues and concerns. Many times I’m the only woman at these types of meetings. Whether I’m in uniform or a business suit, I’m afforded the respect from other police chiefs because of the image of my predecessors and they know I’m from the Patrol.
Today would be an excellent time to start your career with the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Technological advances are changing the way we do business for the better. Every time I see new equipment or a new way of doing something, I think of an instance that I wish I would have had that when….(you fill in the blank). Being a woman in the Highway Patrol changes who you are and how people think about you as a person and as a part of the community. Often times when someone introduces me to someone new they start by telling them that, “She’s a trooper.” They probably forget the name but they remember who I am and what I represent.