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Boss Ladies of CLE: RTA Transit Police Chief Deirdre Jones

Trains are new to her, but police work is not. Deirdre Jones took the helm as the new RTA Transit Police Chief just last month after more than 30 years with CPD.

CLEVELAND — "A boss lady is somebody who boldly chooses her own direction. She gets stuff done, she often strays from the conventional path and blazes her own trail. She often works towards a higher purpose outside of her own personal success." - Maggie Sullivan, author of "Boss Ladies of CLE"

Trains are new to her, but police work is not. Deirdre Jones took the helm as the new chief of police for the Greater Cleveland RTA just last month.

"I grew up in Cleveland and we used to ride the buses and the trains and I had no idea what went into making RTA work," Jones said.

Jones will now have a front row seat from her new office at RTA headquarters to the workings of Ohio's largest transit agency. The top job comes after retiring in April from the Cleveland Division of Police.

Jones says her interest in law enforcement started at a young age. 

"When I was a kid, my mother and I used to watch all the cop shows. We watched...Hawaii 5-0 we watched The Untouchables, The FBI in Color, and at that point I said I want to do... I want to be a police officer," Jones recalled.

"[My mother] said to me, you'll make a great police chief. That was over 30 years ago and here I am sitting in this chair, so I'm feeling very fortunate."

In fact, Jones says, her mother has been a great influence on her life and work. 

Credit: Deirdre Jones
Deirdre Jones and her wife Dabney Conwell, and their mothers are pictured at their 2020 wedding.

"Not only did we grow up poor,  I always tell people we grew up po. P-o because we couldn't afford the o and  the r. But we never knew that because my mother was always there for us when we needed.

So how did her mom react when Jones told her she got the chief job?

"She said are you playing with me? And I said no I'm dead serious...she says see -I told you one day you'd be chief and she was right," Jones said with a smile. "She was right."

It’s a role Jones has earned after three decades of policing -breaking barriers as the city’s first LGBTQ liaison – and an advocate for those facing domestic violence. She says, she's seen progress during her service.

"I think what has changed is the opportunity. I consider myself very fortunate because the city gave me a lot of opportunity, Chief Williams also gave me a lot of opportunities and [Mayor Jackson] gave me a lot of opportunity but that opportunity came from hard work," she said. "I believe in recognizing that hard work and I believe in in cultivating that talent."

Chief Jones now hopes to grow the small GCRTA department with a diverse pool of talent. 

After this turning point year, she's watching how her officers manage stress -- and also watching how they're treated and treat others. All RTA police officers are getting body cameras in August.

"I think the biggest thing that I want to do is to lead by example. I always say that, you know, what I believe in is that the behavior at the bottom is indicative of the attitudes at the top."

Good policing is more than what she saw on TV - it's care.

"I tell my officers uh as much as I can. You know, you want to treat people the way that you would want an officer to treat somebody you cared about," Jones said. "Sometimes it's just a simple hello that makes a difference in a person's day and it makes them have a different perspective on on police officers."

Credit: Great Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
RTA Police Chief Deirdre Jones

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