People of CSU - Meet Capt. Beverly Pettrey, the 1st woman chief of CSU police
Captain Beverly Pettrey will head Cleveland State University's Police Department as the interim chief. This comes after the resignation of former Chief Anthony Traska, who left CSU in February to become the Chief of Police at Mercy Health Lorain Hospital.
Pettrey, who joined the department in 2006, is the first woman Chief of Police in the department’s history. Before being promoted to captain, Pettrey was only the second woman to serve as a lieutenant in the department’s history.
According to Pettrey, the other lieutenant who served at Cleveland State in the 1990s was the highest-ranking woman officer until Pettrey came. Since then she has now served as the highest-ranking woman in the department. She has broken barriers as a captain and now interim chief.
“We do have more barriers. We have to show that we can do the job,” Pettrey said. “We have to prove ourselves a little more than a male would.”
Policing is still a very lop-sided profession when it comes to gender representation -- 85% men and 15% women, according to Data USA.
Pettrey says being a woman has had its challenges, but that it's changing.
‘It’s not as bad as when I started 16 years ago,” Pettrey said. “I wouldn't even say it was even awful then. Over time things have gotten easier for women in law enforcement. There are still a lot of barriers.”
That was not going to stop her.
“There were barriers for me when I started here. I just kept my focus on why I was here, why I wanted to be here, and what I wanted to do,” Pettrey said. “It wasn't always easy, I used to get caught up sometimes because I felt like I wasn't getting approval, or fitting in.”
She said what helped her overcome those barriers was time, maturity, and proving to herself that she could do the job. She said she feels that being a woman has not affected her during her career because she feels accomplished.
A dream come true
Being a police officer was Pettrey’s dream. But, she had to put her dream on hold because she started a family young and worked other jobs to take care of her family.
Family was not another barrier that Pettrey had to break. It was more of a detour to help her obtain her dream job.
“I am the kind of person that likes to help people,” Pettrey said. “Being a police offer was always a dream of mine growing up. I was a young girl I used to watch tv shows, and I always said I was going to be a police officer one day.”
This journey to obtain her dream job did not start until later in her life. When her kids were school age, Pettrey went to the police academy where she was able to get college credit. After graduating from the academy, she landed her dream job as an officer with the Cleveland State University Police Department.
A police officer and a scholar
She was 34, and she was not about to stop. With the education benefit CSU offers, she obtained her bachelor's degree in 2015 and her master's degree in applied social research in 2021.
“It was a great program. It’s actually a pretty new program at Cleveland State. Our cohort was the first group to go through it,” Pettrey said.
At the same time, Pettrey was achieving her degrees, she was working hard to move up the ranks at the department.
In 2006, Pettrey started as a patrol officer at CSU. She went on to join the crime prevention unit and did a lot of community engagement and public speaking for the department. She would later transition into the role as a lieutenant, where she oversaw the office of emergency management, police specialized units, and dispatch.
Pettrey then moved into her more recent roles as captain and finally to interim chief.
She said that all the officers are pulling together to help her and the department as it transitions to a new leader.
“My boss, David Jewell, is a huge supporter of me," Pettrey said. "I want to be able to do a good job.”
A trailblazer and a mentor
Pettrey says the most impactful moments in her career are when she has the opportunity to help or mentor another person, especially, other women in law enforcement.
“Any time I have the opportunity to help or even mentor another person -- and let's be honest another female too -- it’s very impactful to me,” Pettrey said. “I love working in this environment because it gives me the opportunity to mentor young people.”
Cleveland State currently employs 22 officers. One of those officers is Nadine Ellis. Ellis started at CSU as a student, where she mentored under Pettrey and was able later to join the department as an officer.
“I look forward to those opportunities. I welcome them too,” Pettrey said.
Mentoring is not the only opportunity that Pettrey is looking forward to. She and the department are working hard to find ways to improve the department and community relations.
Serving the community
Most of those ideas center around community policing. Community policing is important not only to Pettrey but to the department as a whole.
“We believe in community policing and educating. Campus policing is a different animal compared to municipal policing,” Pettrey said. “We are more of a department that is about education, crime prevention, and engagement.”
When it comes to students and certain crimes, Pettrey says that the department works with the students and university leadership to support the students and help rehabilitate them. That is one of the reasons why Pettrey wanted to work at Cleveland State.
“I have always been in the mindset of community policing, even when I first came in the door here,” Pettrey said. “Being a police officer, I always saw myself working at a school, working with students.”
That mindset is one Pettrey envisions the whole department embracing, from current officers to future ones. CSU currently is looking to add four more officers to bring the force to 26. However, for Pettrey it is about finding the right officers for the department.
“I really like community policing. That is really the vision that I have for this department,” Pettrey said. “It can be difficult sometimes to find the right officers to fit in that type of world.”
That is why the department is looking into getting an emotional support dog for the community. It will allow officers to get out more, be among the students and engage with them. Pettrey says they are aggressively pursuing every avenue possible to get an emotional support dog in the future.
“To be more engaging with our community. I would like to have our officers out there more with our students,” Pettrey said. “One program that I would love to bring is a therapy dog to campus. We can have an officer and friendly dog walking around campus. To give students and officers, a moment of stress relief.”
That program is one of many ideas that Pettrey would like to implement as interim chief of the department. She doesn't want to stop there though.
“The hope is that I will transition into the permanent role as the chief of this department,” Pettrey said. “The University will do a search. I will go through that process, and I hope to continue on as the permanent chief.”
Pettrey added that if CSU does decide to go in a different direction, she will stay with the department. In the interim, she said she loves her colleagues and the CSU community.
“I feel fortunate to have the opportunity," Pettrey said. "I feel supported by this university.”