By ARDEN BASTIA Called "e;extraordinary"e; by her superiors at the Rhode Island Municipal Police Training Academy run by the State Police, Officer Keara Enos graduated as the first female valedictorian in more than a decade and has recently joined the
Called “extraordinary” by her superiors at the Rhode Island Municipal Police Training Academy run by the State Police, Officer Keara Enos graduated as the first female valedictorian in more than a decade and has recently joined the Warwick Police Department.
“It wasn’t one of those things that I’ve known since I was a little kid, unfortunately. I went to three different colleges; I studied business and then went to trade school. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do after high school, but there was a part of me that was like, I’ve always wanted to be a cop.”
Enos grew up around law enforcement; her father Stephen was a Lieutenant on the East Providence police force, and then became Chief in Rehoboth, MA.
“He helped me a ton,” said Enos in an interview.
“Not as far as work in the academy, but especially with things that they don’t really teach you, like mindset. He was a huge resource for that.”
Enos began her law enforcement career at the South Eastern Massachusetts Police Training Academy, where she also graduated as valedictorian of her class. She then served as a dispatcher and reserve officer in Westport, MA.
Enos started at the Rhode Island Police Academy in July 2020, and trained there for six months. Despite COVID interruptions, she rose to top of her class, securing the valedictorian spot.
“I wish there were certain aspects of it that civilians could go through just to see what police officers do, so they understand what I mean,” she said. At the academy, Enos had both classroom and physical training. “The whole time, you’re learning under stress. So you have to get used to it, because it’s part of the job.”
“A lot of it is law classes,” she said, “But then there are all the physical tests you have to do. Overall, you can take as much as you want from it, essentially. And that’s the way I looked at it. If I’m going to be in here for six months, I’m going to learn as much as I can, so that when I get on the road I can be as good as I can be.”
Recruits at the RI Municipal Police Training Academy complete just under 900 hours of “military-style” training in a variety of courses, explained Lt. Christopher Zarrella, Executive Director of RIMPTA and a member of the RI State Police force.
“The class work is extensive, and recruits study everything from law to motor vehicle code, firearms, defense tactics, domestic violence DUI, the list goes on and on,” he said. “The classes are extremely involved, and difficult even under the best circumstances. [Enos] was a young woman up against some serious competition for the top spot in a group of very driven and dedicated people. It’s not an easy task to become valedictorian.”
He called Enos’ accomplishment “extraordinary”.
Zarrella explained that recruits are in a high-stress environment for a reason. “The constant stress and anxiety is by design. We intentionally do this because we’re interested to see how they handle that environment. She wasn’t easily rattled, she had a calm demeanor, and she maintained her focus and her performance reflected that. Good self-control, common sense, and a consciousness of responsibilities are the most important things you can have.”
What was the most challenging part of the academy for Enos? “Getting pepper sprayed, by far,” said Enos with a laugh.
Enos began her training at the Warwick Police Department in early January and called the experiences so far “phenomenal.” The field-training program with Warwick lasts twelve weeks, where Enos will work alongside more senior officers in a variety of settings, from office work to answering citizen calls around the city. Each week, Enos described, the trainee gets more responsibilities, until they’re comfortable and ready to be on their own.
“The biggest thing I’m getting used to is driving with the lights and sirens,” said Enos, “You get so used to watching shows like Live PD and it makes it seem like it’s a 30 second drive and then you’re out of the car. But I’m driving, and with the sirens and lights, after awhile it gets kind of annoying.”
Prior to accepting the offer from Warwick, Enos had three other conditional offers from departments around the state.
“Everyone’s been super helpful,” she said. “Even being a woman, I haven’t felt that anyone looks at me any different. And that’s been super good.”
Out of the 170 full-time officers at the Warwick Police Department, Enos is one of only 12 women.
“I think as time goes by, more females are getting into it, which is a good thing,” she said. “It definitely brings a good perspective to have female officers.”
Enos’ goal is to one day become a police chief, but also has passions for working with officers on the streets. “Being a chief would be great one day, but there are the guys who are out there doing all the work all the time, pulling drugs off the street. I’d love to do that one day.”
Enos is looking forward to exploring different proactive roles as she continues in her career.
“There’s all kinds of training, but I think that’s one of the things that attracted me to police work is that as people change, the job changes. You’ll never catch up to what the criminals are doing, so you always have to keep learning, and it’s always changing,” she said. “But I’ve got to master the basics before I get to that.”
This past year has been no easy feat for law enforcement, but Zarrella says applications to the academy haven’t dropped, “in fact, we don’t have enough space or resources to hold and academy for the all the recruits a department sends.”
With the new protocols and hurdles of COVID, the academy was only able to open 55 seats, even though close to 80 applicants were sponsored by departments.
But despite the challenges, Enos says she’s “been so excited” to work in law enforcement, but “at the same time, I can put myself in other people’s shoes.”
“You know, some people are better than others. I think it’s like a pendulum, and it’ll swing back in favor of us eventually,” she said. “But, for sure, I think there are things that have to be solved on both sides of the aisle.
“It’s about service and protecting the community,” said Zarrella. “If that isn’t why you’re getting into it, you’ve already made the wrong decision. I’d like to see more people like Enos, male and female, at the academy.”