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Thursday, May 5, 2016

A life working in blue

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jill Rice describes some of the photos and memorabilia on display at her home in Cloverdale. Rice has served on the Indiana State Police force for 31 years and is the first woman on the force to be older than 60 years old. She said despite challenges of working on the force at times, "I love my job." Rice now handles the statewide hotline calls in Indianapolis. Banner Graphic/AMANDA JUNK
CLOVERDALE -- Jill Rice's motivation for joining the Indiana State Police goes back to the 1960s, when she was a 16-year-old at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis.

She was never close to Sylvia Likens, one of her physical education classmates, but the end of Likens' life led to Rice's decision to pursue police work.

Likens had gone to spend the summer living with her caretaker Gertrude Baniszewski while her parents were in the carnival, but didn't make it to the end of 1965; Baniszewski and neighbors beat and killed her, Rice said.

Rice will never forget the day she heard the news in gym class.

"It was announced in my class that she had been murdered and it just left such an impression on me. I just couldn't ever forget it, and I wanted to go into police work after that," she said.

Since then, Rice, now 62, went on to graduate from the police academy and has worked for ISP for the past 31 years, paving the way for female officers across the state. She is the first woman on the force to be older than 60 and the first to have served for more than 30 consecutive years.

"I'm kind of pioneering the way," she said.

While she was the 11th woman to join the force, in 1984 Rice was the first pregnant state trooper in Indiana. Because there was no such thing as the Family Medical Leave Act or no maternity leave mandate, it was her case that was the basis for the creation of standard operating procedure for pregnant troopers.

A wall of ISP memorabilia is on display at Rice's home in Cloverdale. Banner Graphic/AMANDA JUNK
A sergeant investigator for the Indiana State Police, Rice now handles statewide hotline calls.

According to the Indiana State Police Public Information Office, there were 59 female police officers in the state in 2008 on the 1,300-person force.

She said when she first started on the force, the social climate was a lot different and she had to overcome gender role stereotypes.

"When I first came on, a lot of them thought, 'Well you're just here to try and get a husband,'" she said.

Sometimes the fast-paced environment can be challenging, she said, but she overcomes it by staying focused.

"The challenges are to go out there and show that you can do the job. You work on your own, you don't have a partner," she said. "The challenge is to think quick and on your feet, so you can go into any situation and make quick and accurate decisions."

A rather difficult time in her career came when she had to provide security to Baniszewski for her parole hearing.

"We didn't have the death sentence back in the '60s, so she was given life in prison with parole at 20 years," she said. "I was chosen to guard her from the public and I did not really want to guard her, but I chose to be professional."

A highlight of her career, Rice said, was working as part of a yearlong undercover hydroponics sting operation in Indianapolis. By the end of the year working at a fake storefront, ISP had 50 search warrants to go seize marijuana at grow houses.

Professional challenges and successes aside, Rice said balancing family and work could at times be tricky, but she made it work, sometimes appearing in uniform at after-school events.

"I raised four sons and two step-daughters," she said. "I was fortunate that I could go to work and focus on my job and then come home and become a mom and a wife."

To other women looking to become involved in the force, Rice says there is a desperate need and encourages them to consider police work as a career option.

"You don't have to be the strongest person alive or the smartest. You just have to know to be cautious and think all the time and learn how to deal with different situations," she said.

"It's a wonderful job because it can change every day and you encounter something different."

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-- Posted by BIG DOG DADDY on Thu, Oct 28, 2010, at 8:07 AM

Great story Amanda - inspiring! :-)

-- Posted by BG-reader on Thu, Oct 28, 2010, at 9:32 AM

Way to go, jill!

-- Posted by talkymom3 on Thu, Oct 28, 2010, at 12:46 PM

Thanks so much!!!!!!

I also remember Sylvia Likens and how to this day she is still in my heart and mind. I will never forget her or what happened to her. And how Gertrude Baniszewsk changed her name after she got out of prison. ( I thought her name was Mary Bradshaw?)

-- Posted by buttercupbaby on Thu, Oct 28, 2010, at 5:54 PM

No, Gertrude changed her name to Nadene VonFossen and moved to Iowa after she was released from prison. Sylvia Likens murdur impacted so many people.

-- Posted by Scripted Spontaneity on Thu, Oct 28, 2010, at 11:01 PM

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