Columbus Police Chief Kimberley Jacobs has shattered glass ceilings since she first entered the academy in 1979.
She not only became the first female chief in the division but she is also the first openly gay chief as she married her partner of 14 years just 2 weeks ago.
"The first day when Mayor Coleman asked to meet me to make the announcement, I literally walked from headquarters down to his condo just down the street and I walked right along the Scioto Mile and I kind of thought that might be what he's gonna tell me...wasn’t sure,” said Jacobs. “But as I'm walking back, I'm looking at these big buildings and the traffic and everything else and I’m like oh my gosh, this is a huge city! It's large...there's a lot of people here...and I thought, I'm responsible for their safety."
A responsibility retiring Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs has carried with her every day since as she prepares to hang up her hat next month.
- Jacobs joined the academy in October, 1979
- The 39-year veteran has been breaking barriers and effecting positive change throughout her career
- February 8th is Jacobs' last day on the job
But her service to the community started long before she became chief. It goes back 39 years to when she first entered the academy as an eager 22-year-old.
"I had a great energy at that time,” Jacobs said. “I wanted to do something that I thought made a difference, and that would be using both my head and my physical skills as an athlete. You know, I ended up chasing down quite a few bad guys…back in the day.”
For Jacobs, she entered a field dominated by men, as women had just been allowed to work in patrol only four years prior.
Intimidated and unsure, Jacobs said it was a fateful day that extinguished any doubt and changed the landscape of her career path.
“I was fortunate enough to go with one of the first female patrol officers when I did my ride-along, and I saw how she did the job, especially back in the day you thought of policing as very macho…big, tall, strong…all that kind of stuff. She was petite and compassionate and quiet and I saw that she could do the job and I thought, this is what I’m supposed to do,” said Jacobs.
And she certainly was— earning her way up the ladder as the first woman in the division to be promoted to commander in 1995, to deputy chief in 2009 and then to chief of police in 2012.
Fueled by not only a love of service but also a warrant for change— something that became both a goal and duty in her leadership roles over the years.
"Because we didn't have a lot of women in leadership positions, I thought that they needed to hear a different perspective. So that drove a number of my promotions...to have a seat at the table...and if you have a seat at the table, if you're fortunate enough, then you have to speak up."
As an officer, Jacobs spoke up and created policy changes as well as training for recruits and veterans in the field.
She became a respected leader as a commander and chief— creating an environment where everyone's opinions are listened to and valued, and something Jacobs has extended from the office to the community.
"Listening is extremely important, but it's not just your peer group. It's other people too,” Jacobs said. “I've been to hundreds of community meetings where I’ve listened to what they say about us, I answered the complaint line for four years when I was the sergeant in our patrol office and you find out very quickly what upsets people about the police, and if you're not listening to that, you're never going to get better."
The profession is challenging and at many times seems thankless.
"You see some evil things. You see some tragic things,” said Jacobs. “I saw a 14-year-old take his life, people that got mangled in a traffic crash on the freeway and are just gone. So, it easy enough to get cynical thinking the world’s a rough place and that people do bad things, but on the other side it's easy to go home at the end of every day and say, I made a difference today, I helped somebody today."
And Jacobs has helped many along the way, breaking down barriers for those who came behind her.
But what she'll likely be remembered for goes beyond status, gender, and sexuality, as she leaves her mark and values on a community she has served for almost four decades.
"Sincerity will win the day every time. Honesty, frankness, sincerity…are things I feel very strongly about. It's been a great career. I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity all along the way, not just because I got to be chief, but all along the way."
Chief Jacobs’ last day is February 8th. She told Spectrum News 1 she is looking forward to more time with her family and traveling with her wife.
She also has two sons, one of whom is continuing her legacy as a police officer in Columbus.