The Catholic University of America

Nora Conley

Rookie Officer is Boston Strong

Meghan Walsh, B.A. 2011, recalls that she was initially nervous on her first day on the job this June as a rookie police officer in Boston. “It was a bit overwhelming, like a first day of school. During roll call, the four of us [newly graduated officers] stood in a corner,” she says.

“But as soon as I got in the car and took that first radio call, any anxiety was gone. I felt I was meant to do this. It also helped that I have the privilege of being assigned to the district [Dorchester] I grew up in. I know many of the veteran officers there and the people we are serving,” she says.

On her first day, Walsh assisted in the arrest of three juveniles for theft and assault and battery on a store owner. “On some jobs there is a learning curve, but on this one there are no training wheels. You have to jump right in.”

Walsh, who was president of her police academy class, says she has always aspired to a career in law enforcement. Her great-grandfather was a Boston police officer, and she says the officers in her community were strong role models.

While a media studies major at Catholic University, Walsh completed an internship at Boston Police Headquarters in the Media Relations Department. After graduating from college, Walsh worked as the federal legislative director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, a labor union that represents the interests of police officers across the country. Both of these experiences reaffirmed her desire to be a police officer.

But despite her resolve, Walsh says her 28 weeks at the Boston Police Academy were challenging. “It’s tough: physically, mentally, emotionally. Sure, you question your decision — just about every day, especially when you are doing pushups in the snow. But that’s the point. You need to be challenged and questioning so you can be sure you are committed to all the demands that come with this career.”

There was one day during her time at the academy, however, that Walsh says she did not question her decision. “We were called on to reinforce the Boston Police Department at the marathon this year,” she says. “To be out there one year after the bombing and to support the runners and city was such an incredible feeling of pride. And it was my first experience having people thank me for serving in uniform. That was pretty special.”

Being prepared for the potential dangers of the job is at the core of academy training. “You might think that would make the risks of the job weigh on me. But actually the training reassures you that you will go out on the streets prepared and ready. The message is ‘rely on your training and go home safe to your family every day.’”

Walsh has moved back to her family home in the historic Dorchester neighborhood, where she lives with her parents and three younger siblings. “It’s kind of like a time warp, but it has been incredible to live with them during this transition in my life.”

She says her mom in particular helped her get through the academy. “My mom ironed my uniforms, packed my lunches, had dinner ready, quizzed me, and just generally helped me maintain my sanity. When I graduated, I chose her to pin my badge on me during the ceremony. It was a proud day for her.”

That family pride was no doubt generated not just by Walsh’s graduation, but by her role as class president, elected by her peers. It was the first time in the history of the Boston Police Academy that a class had both a female president and vice president.

As president, Walsh, who attained planning skills working on the Program Board while at CUA, spearheaded fundraising efforts to raise money for class projects. These included a clothing drive for homeless veterans, helping officers who have fallen on hard times, a blood drive for sick children, and self-defense classes at a shelter for abused women led by female academy students.

Now on the job, Walsh says her academic training as a media studies major has been invaluable. “My communication skills have been so important to me. We spend a lot of time writing reports, which determine important things like whether a person will get a restraining order or if an offender will be convicted. Police officers are frequently called on to testify, and every day out on the streets we are communicating with the citizens we serve.”

Walsh will spend a year patrolling the streets of Dorchester, where she made 11 arrests in her first month on the job, before being reassigned and charting her career path within the department. “Rookies are placed in the city’s three busiest districts, which is great, because we get a chance to see it all and gain a lot of experience. I’m not sure what direction I will eventually choose within the department, but right now I’m just grateful for the street experience I am gaining,” she says.

And it’s the small rewards that come from being on the streets that send her home satisfied every day. “Kids wave to us. People thank us. Every day we get to resolve problems. We might be giving someone peace of mind by finding the person who robbed them, and or we get called to a home where people are in crisis and we can get them the services they need to improve their situation. We put people at ease and you can see that in the expressions on their faces.”

Pictured above: Meghan Walsh, president of her police academy class, addresses fellow graduates in June 2014. 

 

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Meghan Walsh

Hometown: Boston

Degree: B.A. 2011

Favorite Place on campus: Flather Hall (her freshman residence hall): "That's where it all began."

Favorite place in D.C.: The National Mall “I loved running and playing softball on the Mall. It’s pretty amazing to run past the Lincoln Memorial.”

Favorite Book: The Great Gatsby

Guilty Pleasure: Watching Law and Order: SVU. “I shouldn’t admit that I like a cop show. It’s not realistic. But I can find it on any time of day, which is nice because I might get off my shift at midnight or at 2 in the afternoon. I enjoy it. Maybe that’s the media studies part of me.”