Police chief finds rewards among challenges

Common sense, hard work, family and the Church have helped Janice Strauss deal this past year with the challenges of a new job.

In October 1998, Janice Strauss made history by being appointed the first female police chief here and one of only a handful of women in the country to lead such a large police department.

Sister Strauss, 53, of the Alma 7th Ward, Mesa Arizona West Stake, oversees the Mesa Police Department, which currently has more than 700 police officers and more than 400 civilian employees. She has worked through the ranks in nearly every area of police work during her 25 years with the police force in Phoenix and Mesa.

"It has been so interesting," Sister Strauss said. "There has been a new challenge all of the time and a tremendous potential for personal growth."

She does admit, however, that the work has been stressful, especially during the seven years she spent as a detective. "There is a lot of emotional drain," she said, "but a lot of reward also."

Since joining the Mesa Police Department in 1978, she was promoted from officer to detective, then to master police officer, sergeant, lieutenant and captain. In 1994 she became Mesa's first female assistant chief and served in that capacity until being named acting chief when the former chief retired in May 1998.

After a nationwide search, she was chosen as the new police chief, becoming the first female chief in Mesa's 120-year history.

She also serves on the Arizona Governor's Commission on Violence Against Women and was elected to the executive board of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police.

Sister Strauss, who moved to Mesa from Idaho with her family when she was 16, started her police career with the Phoenix Police Department after graduating from Arizona State University in sociology.

At that time she was only one of four or five female police officers employed in the city.

Sister Strauss, a single mother, has three children and two grandchildren.

Her daughter, Roxie Heussner, recalled that while growing up her mom was always there for her in school and sporting activities and was always active in the Church.

'"She has always remained very active and served in her Church callings," said Sister Heussner. "To me, that was her greatest example and I've always been so proud of her."

Sister Heussner said even now her mother calls daily to check on her and offers to help with the children. "She even volunteered recently to baby-sit during her lunch break," she said. "She always thinks about everyone else."

Sister Strauss said she has learned to deal with the many demands in her life and stressful job by implementing the power of prayer.

"You wouldn't believe how calm I am, and it's not easy to be calm," she said. "I'm convinced that through the power of prayer I am able to deal with all of this."

Sister Strauss said she plans to retire in about four years, but before then she has many goals to accomplish.

She would like to see police officers trained to be more community oriented and proactive and she hopes to put together a research division to handle the department's long-range growth and planning needs.

She explained that she is very much a goal-oriented person. Recently, she realized a goal when she received her master's degree in public administration from Arizona State University.

Sister Strauss, who sets aside her Friday nights in the summer to play softball on a family team with her oldest daughter and son-in-law, has served as education counselor in the Relief Society, Sunday School teacher and women's sports director, and currently teaches the Laurels in her ward.

She said she tells the Young Women: "Never say, 'I can't do it.' "

She knows, with the help of their Heavenly Father, they can accomplish any righteous desire.

Sister Strauss said last year she had the opportunity to visit Salt Lake City for the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention. While in the city, she and several of her colleagues heard the the Tabernacle Choir perform on Temple Square.

During the performance, Sister Strauss looked around and saw several people crying. It was then she realized that many of her colleagues have a religious void in their lives. The Church, she said, has always been a source of strength in her life.

The gospel "is truly a blessing," she said. "I don't know how people do it without it."