Proving that it’s not just a man’s world, Jennifer Dunn will begin her career on Friday as a police officer with the East Hampton Village Police Department. She will be only the third woman to be employed as an officer there in the department’s history, behind retired Detective Sergeant Margaret Dunn and retired Police Officer Janice DeAngelo.Officer Dunn, who started her career as a village dispatcher, said she has been waiting 10 years to don her cap and couldn’t be happier about achieving her goal, even if it means being the only acting female officer in the department and having to wear high-waisted pants that are not exactly styled for the female form.
The 34-year-old carries herself with confidence and ease, and seemed at home at police headquarters on Friday. It makes sense that she would be—she comes from a long line of police officers. Her father, Denis Dunn, is a retired East Hampton Town Police officer; her brother, Denis Dunn Jr., has worked as an East Hampton Town dispatcher for 16 years; and her grandfather Michael and great-grandfather Robert Dunn,were New York City Police officers. She also has a slew of cousins who work in law enforcement in the city.
Despite the similarity in name and appearance, Officer Dunn is not related to retired Detective Sergeant Margaret Dunn.
According to her father, she was raised with a focus on justice. “She was brought up to be compassionate and fair and just,” he said in a phone interview. “She grew up in a police family.”
Officer Dunn said she always had it in the back of her mind to become a police officer, but she really started working for it when she joined the village dispatchers seven and a half years ago.
“Dispatch was more of a way for me to get into the business, and it’s been a great learning experience,” she said. “I thought it would help me in becoming a police officer, as well as be a great job. If I never got this opportunity, I would’ve loved to stay there. It’s a hard job.”
For nearly eight years, Officer Dunn answered call upon call, including one that came in by accident during a domestic incident. She and her co-workers, Rob Labrozzi and Keith Payne, tracked the caller and initiated a multi-agency search.
“It’s just our job,” she said. In the course of her time as a dispatcher, she had to transfer calls to her brother Denis Dunn Jr. working for East Hampton Town dispatch “all the time.”
When she wasn’t working dispatch, she attended the police academy and attempted to pass the civil service exam in order to start forging her path to “police officer.”
The police academy required much of Officer Dunn’s time—she had to change to day shifts so that she could drive to Brentwood at night five days a week and went a full day on Saturdays. She said at one point she was at the academy seven days a week for 21 days.
“It was scary but fun … you don’t know what to expect,” she said, explaining that she was tested throughout her schooling. “It was worth it.”
The civil service exam tests hopefuls on laws through a writing section, and includes a psychological evaluation, a background check, a polygraph test and a medical examination. Even if a test-taker does well, there must be enough openings in order to be considered for a job.
The third time was a charm—she passed with a 97.5, which allowed her to move forward with her goal. She was the valedictorian of her class of 17, the only female, and the oldest graduate, aside from a 54-year-old bay constable.
“At first it was intimidating going through it with 21- and 22-year-old young guys and making sure you keep up,” she said. “I guess there is an obligation—being female, you’d like to see more females in everything, pursuing whatever they want. It’s good that young girls see females doing their job and getting recognition. Hopefully, I do a good job and show them they can do it too.”