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Johanna Fitch: Relishing the Camaraderie at UPD

June 1, 2009

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Johanna Fitch, officer, University Police Department

Officer Johanna Fitch, who graduated first in her class at Zone 5 Law Enforcement Training Academy in January, is one of the University Police Department's newest officers. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

When University Police Department Officer Johanna Fitch was five-years-old, she told her pediatrician during a routine visit that she was going to be an FBI agent. Being just a youngster, Fitch doesn't recall the conversation, but her mother often reminds her of it, especially since Fitch works in law enforcement.

"I'm sure I didn't even know what that meant back then," laughs Fitch, now 27. "But it's just something I always remember that I wanted to do."

Fitch joined the ranks at the University at Albany's UPD in January after graduating first in her class from Zone 5 Law Enforcement Training Academy in Schenectady.

"Johanna has as much potential to be great as any police officer I have ever seen. She has the intellect, the people skills, the empathy, and the instincts to have a limitless career," said UPD Chief J. Frank Wiley. "I am so pleased and excited to have her join this team."

Her duties include patrolling the uptown campus and responding to emergency and other calls. More importantly, she said, she conducts community policing efforts, including interacting with students and showing a presence in residence halls and on campus.

"Essentially, the University is a community. It's good to know the community and have the community know you," said Fitch, originally from Jay, Maine. "If you're more familiar with the surroundings, or the people that make up those surroundings, then it's advantageous in the event something does happen."

Fitch is one of the newest members of the Department -- two of her colleagues graduated from the Academy with her. She said it helped knowing others were making the same transition from police recruit to officer. That's why Fitch, along with the other UPD officers, are trying to make it easier for the latest recruit -- Officer-in-Training Carrie Kane -- who is slated to graduate from the Academy this summer. They've talked to Kane about what to expect and answered her questions about the position, department and campus in order to ease any anxieties.

In fact, the camaraderie at UPD is one of the characteristics most relished by Fitch. It's why she loves what she does.

"We're truly like a family here. We're all equal, we're all the same. We're never judged by size or gender. They're great people to work with," said Fitch, who is among six women in UPD's ranks, which is among the highest levels in its history. "I think it's great that the Department is increasing its number of women, but I've never thought about it. We are all trained the same way and we all have the same job to do. We're all treated the same way, regardless of gender."

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Rabi Musah
UAlbany Faculty

"It is an enriching experience for me to observe people as they come to recognize something for the first time."

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