Metropolitan St. Louis Police Lt. Col. Rochelle Jones prays for strength so she can take care of people.
God has been a huge part of her police work for almost 40 years, Jones explained. “I really don’t think I could have made it without God helping me.”
People call police, she said, “not when things are happy and good but when things are bad and there’s a huge issue. I pray that I can be strong, especially in a leadership role because everybody’s looking to you to be strong. But sometimes it’s hard when you see people suffering, when you see an old lady shot, when you see kids being killed. It’s hard to maintain your leadership. You just want to cry and say why are people doing this to each other. So I pray a lot. And sometimes I ask people, please pray for me.”
Some people look down on all police because of things other police officers have done wrong. But Jones continues to work hard doing the right things. “This is more than a career,” she said. “It is my dream. It is what I always wanted to do. I feel I have an impact on the people I work with and the people out on the street.”
Police work has its valleys with sad times, but it also has peaks with good times, she said. She is assigned to the Bureau of Specialized Enforcement as the deputy chief and reports directly to the police chief.
The right fit
When Jones was about 12 years old, she lived in the Walnut Park neighborhood where the Catholic priest, Father Richard Tillman, and women religious from St. Philip Neri Parish walked around the neighborhood introducing themselves and inviting people to attend the church.
“They talked to my mom, and she said, ‘Well, OK,’” Jones said.
The family was not Catholic and had stopped going to the church of Jones’ great-grandfather, an Episcopal priest, after he died.
Jones’ family, including her four sisters and two brothers, took to the Catholic parish. Jones stuck with the faith, even after St. Philip Neri merged with another parish to become St. Simon of Cyrene and then eventually closed.
She began attending Mass at various parishes trying to find a fit, including Most Holy Trinity Parish in the Hyde Park neighborhood. She introduced herself to the pastor, the late Father Richard Creason, but didn’t return for a few months. When she did return, Jones said, “he knew my name. He made a huge impression on me. And I’m so sad he passed on. He was such a dynamic guy, very engaged in the community.”
The parish remains close to her heart. “I like being there. I like the atmosphere. I like the way I’m treated. I like the way we treat everybody else,” she said of the approximately 10 years she’s been a parishioner.
Heart of a police officer
Jones developed an interest in police work early on, but the only police she saw were white men. “I didn’t see anyone who looked like me, especially women. But I just never forgot about policing. The rest is history, and I’m glad I did it.”
She had no connections with the police department but attended a program where she told a police lieutenant she wanted to be a police officer. He urged her to put in an application. The St. Louis department had a freeze on hiring, so she went to work as a security officer until she caught on with the city police force in 1983.
Jones called her years as a security officer a good learning and training experience. “But my heart was as a police officer,” she said.
The police academy at the time was a mixture of candidates from various police departments and was fairly diverse, Jones said.
Somewhat reluctantly, Jones took the required tests and applied for promotions because she felt God telling her to do so. “The path has been very clear to me of what I should be doing,” Jones said. “I asked my mother how does God’s voice sound. She said that God is so wonderful that if He talked to you in His voice, you’d be blown away. God speaks to you in thoughts, and He lets you know what you should be doing. My path has always been so clear. That’s why I haven’t retired or done anything different.”
Jones urges young people to pursue a career in law enforcement if it’s their passion, but also to get a college education and network with a diverse group of people. “And if you get into policing and you don’t like it, get out. Find yourself another career because this career is not for the weak or for people with biases. You see people at their worst and lowest time in life. If you don’t have compassion, if you don’t believe in God — that’s what happens to these officers who end up doing what they’re not supposed to do.”
The first African-American female lieutenant colonel in the department, she views leadership as being fair, consistent and firm, “not only with my co-workers but with the people we serve. We serve the citizens.”
The oldest of seven children, Jones has a close family, with her siblings all living in St. Louis. She’s a fan of the Muny, the Fox Theater, movies and country music as well as vintage clothing and jewelry. She’s a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
>> Lt. Col. Rochelle Jones
• Holds a master’s degree from Webster University in leadership and management and a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in the management of criminal justice systems.
• Served in the Seventh District, Internal Affairs Division, and the Canine/Mobile Reserve Unit after being promoted to the rank of sergeant in 1991. Promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 2001. As such she was the first female in the department’s history to be named and serve as the commander of the Homicide Division. She also served in the Fifth and Sixth Districts.
• Promoted to the rank of captain in 2016. Served as the s
pecial projects director for the Inspector of Police and the commander of District Eight. Once again, she was the first female (and first person to hold the newly created position) in the department’s history to become the patrol executive officer, which gave oversight to each of the three area stations and command of the Special Operations Division (Gang Unit, Juvenile and Narcotics Units) for these area stations.
• Promoted to the rank of major in 2013 and was assigned as the Night Chief and the Commander of Support Operations Division. Later transferred to the Bureau of Operations as the deputy commander.
• Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 2017 and now is assigned to the Bureau of Specialized Enforcement as the deputy chief.