Ever wonder what it takes to become a police officer? For Janine Khalifa, the answer is patience. Janine, 29, grew up in Voorhees and graduated from Eastern Regional High School. She was one of those kids who knew what she wanted to do with her life from a very young age--she was 3 years old when she pointed to the Voorhees police officer directing traffic on the corner and said, ‘Mommy, that's what I want to be when I grow up.'"
Right out of high school Janine earned her two-year associate's degree in liberal arts and science from Camden County College and then went to Rowan University to get her bachelor's degree in law and justice. She graduated in 2001. Janine knew that job experience was a big plus in any law enforcement career and that year's 9/11 terrorist attacks put a freeze on many police officer jobs, so her next move was to spend a few years as a probation officer in Essex County.
Then in 2003, Janine took the civil service exam, a requirement for anyone who wants to become a police officer, and began the waiting game. "I scored a 94 on my civil service exam, but Voorhees wasn't hiring at that time," explains Janine. "So I went the alternate route and quit my job and paid my own way through the police academy instead of waiting to be hired and have my employer pay." Janine started the Camden County Police Academy in January 2006, one of 9 women in a class of 30 recruits, and graduated five months later. "The academy was one of the best times of my life," says Janine. "You carried handcuffs, you cleared buildings and you learned more of the hands-on than any book could teach you." She was hired by the Hightstown Police Department in December 2006.
Janine wants young people to know that a career in law enforcement is not something to rush into. "If you want to be a police officer, get your college degree. A lot of towns, especially in New Jersey, won't even look at you unless you have a college degree," she explains. "You're not 18, taking the civil service exam and becoming a police officer. There are stepping stones. Study, get good grades and get into something in law enforcement first before you take that step to become a police officer." For instance, she adds, college security pays well and allows you to experience shift work. She also stresses that strong people skills are a must. "You have to be able to talk to people. You are constantly getting asked questions over and over again," she explains. You also have to be able to work well with others." So far, her co-workers have demonstrated that skill. "I love it in Hightstown," says Janine. "I work with 13 males and they all treat me with such respect."
While her career in law enforcement was a long time in coming, it was also worth the wait. Says she: "I'm staying right here and hope one day to be chief."