A Generational Gatekeeper: An Influence on the Past, Present, and Future of Our Community
A Q&A session with retired police chief and current criminal justice instructor at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, Chief Robert Jolley
By: Rachel Olszewski
Strategic Communications spoke with Chief Robert Jolley, a graduate of the Penn State Wilkes-Barre Administration of Justice program as well as a current instructor in the program, to ask him about his time in law enforcement and teaching, and how he’s implemented those experiences into how he’s educating the next generation involved in criminal justice.
Strategic Communications: First and foremost, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to answer these questions. To begin, you’ve had an illustrious career that has seen you serve and protect Dallas Township for 29 years, 14 of which you’ve been police chief. What part of your time in law enforcement would you say has been the most rewarding?
Chief Robert Jolley: I have made arrests and prosecuted everything up to murder. Every officer loves a good arrest - we as police officers are the keepers of the gateway to the justice system for the public we serve so I am proud of the arrests I made. To the opposite side, the cards and letters I received from the good folks I had the pleasure to serve when my retirement was announced greatly moved me.
My position afforded me the opportunity to attend the FBI National Academy. I will never forget this experience. That law enforcement education could not be found anywhere in the world except Quantico. I had the opportunity to interact with law enforcement leaders from around the world and learn about policing from a different perspective. I learned about different cultures and keep in touch with my Estonian roommate.
SC: Did you always want to be involved in law enforcement? As a child, what did you want to be when you “grew up?”
CRJ: I always wanted to be a cop. I grew up with Sheriff Taylor in Mayberry. We were entertained by the actions of his Deputy Barney, but the concern for all the members of the community demonstrated by Sheriff Taylor stayed with me. I hung a picture of Andy Griffith as Sheriff Taylor in my office as a reminder to respect and serve everyone in my jurisdiction. I also hung a photograph taken from inside a landing boat on D-Day. This was to remind me that when things get tough; others faced a more daunting task like stepping onto a beach fortified with machine guns.
SC: Is there anyone you look up to? Who has been the biggest influence on your life, and what lessons have they taught you?
CRJ: The biggest influence on my life was that of my family. My Dad passed when I was twelve years old and Mom was left to raise my brother and me. My older siblings that had moved on with their lives stayed involved in ours and continued to mentor my brother and me. They left me with a strong work ethic, a feeling of responsibility, and the knowledge that I had the support of my family. The support of family continued when I married. My wife, Mary Ellen supported me in every way possible. I also learned that it is difficult for the family of a police officer. Looking back, my children watched as I put on body armor to go to work along with a firearm. A police officer misses a lot of family time such as holidays; it teaches us to be mindful of the time we spend together and the importance of sharing family concerns.
SC: Many people I know have expressed an interest in law enforcement but don’t really have an idea of what it all entails aside from what they’ve gathered from television shows and movies. What was a typical day like for you?
CRJ: We spend very little time enforcing the law. We assist stranded motorists, give directions, and when necessary, save lives! I can think of no other career that can be so diverse. At the same time, we in law enforcement uphold the law and protect the citizenry 24/7. I truly enjoyed my job and the challenges it presented every day.
SC: You’re also a criminal justice professor here at Penn State Wilkes Barre. What interested you in teaching?
CRJ: A love of the profession! When one has had the opportunity to have such a great career, sharing with others comes naturally. I was positively influenced by the many teachers I had the good fortune to have contacted in my life so teaching is so POSITIVE to me.
SC: What was your first day of teaching like? How different was it from your other jobs?
CRJ: A new challenge! The change in pace is definitely welcomed.
SC: Now that you’re a retired police chief and former president of PA Chiefs of Police Association, what’s next for you?
CRJ: Time for the next chapter. I welcome the time I spend in the classroom and would like to direct more of my time teaching. Teaching at both PSU and the Police Academy keeps me in touch with the profession I love so much.
SC: And finally, if you could go back in time and give your college-aged self, one piece of advice, what would it be?
CRJ: I am a late bloomer. I attended college classes with my son! Work hard but enjoy at the same time. Keep your eye on the prize, but don’t forget to enjoy the time on the path to your goal. Take advantage of all the offerings on campus. Not everything you learn goes on your transcript. Meet new people and learn about them.
A lover of education, Chief Jolley graduated from California University of Pennsylvania with a Master of Science degree in legal studies and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. at Cal U (PA).