- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A strong bond connects police officers - a bond that feels like family. In some cases, members of the same family work together, resulting in an interesting mix of relatives within departments across the region.

In this last of a three-part series, we examine generations.

Father/daughter

Capt. William Johnson of the Alexandria Police Department commands the Criminal Investigation Division and has been on the force for 34 years. His daughter, Misty Johnson, is also an officer with the department. She is assigned as an instructor at the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy, where she teaches the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s driving while intoxicated curriculum.

She was sworn in on her father’s 30th anniversary with the department.

“I was kind of surprised when she said she wanted to be a police officer,” said Capt. Johnson, 59. “She’s done well. She’s smart and a good officer.

Capt. Johnson said he does not get involved in his daughter’s professional work. “She’s totally on her own,” he said.

“Anyone who knows my dad knows he stays hands-off regarding me,” said Officer Misty Johnson, 35.

Capt. Johnson concurs. “If you have a child or sibling or spouse that wants to get into law enforcement, it’s their decision. You could help them understand what the work is all about. Let them decide and support them in whatever they want to do,” he said.

Officer Johnson said, “I knew law enforcement and investigations always interested me. I liked being in the law enforcement environment. It was the best of both worlds.”

Still, Capt. Johnson cautioned that relatives should not cross a familial line.

“You have to make sure you keep business, business and family, family - and don’t let personal feelings and concerns enter into the work site,” he said.

Mother/daughter/son

Prior to joining the Prince George’s County Police Department, Elizabeth Mints was on food stamps and dating a police officer. After hearing his stories, she said, “I can do that,” and she did.

From 1975 to 2003, she served with the Prince George’s Police Department and retired as a captain. She was the first woman to become assistant commander of the Special Operations Division. She was also the first female hostage negotiator and was the only woman to be awarded a Gold Medal of Valor for a hostage situation in which she ran across a line of fire and her subsequent actions saved a woman’s life.

Capt. Mints, 63, also raised a son, Brent, and a daughter, Misty. The children rode with her in the police car when she was off duty.

Her daughter now is a captain on the force. “I knew, 100 percent certain, that I wanted to be a police officer when I was 9 years old. It was the lifestyle we grew up in. The camaraderie, the tight-knit relationships that came from it was what I wanted to be part of, ” said Capt. Misty Mints, 37.

Her brother, Brent, is employed as a lieutenant for the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office and is in charge of internal affairs.

“It started with my mother having so much internal drive and making something of herself and that inspired me,” said Lt. Mints. “It’s good to have us all in the family.”

For 10 years, the daughter and her mother were employed in the department at the same time. The daughter was promoted to private 1st class at the same time her mother was promoted to lieutenant. They were awarded promotions at the same ceremony.

“I m extremely proud of Misty,” her mother said.

Capt. Misty Mints had to prove herself and demonstrate to others that she performed independent of her mother’s influence or actions.

“People thought I would get special treatment because of my mom,” she said.

She and her mother frequently talked about police issues.

Capt. Elizabeth Mints said, “It changes it from mother/daughter, and it becomes colleagues, friends, partner, and runs the gamut.”

Her daughter agreed. “This is a unique profession. We talk in code at different times,” she said.

Father/son/uncle

Officer Nick Jerman, 24, has been employed with the Montgomery County Police Department since 2003 and works in the Gaithersburg district. For him, it’s almost like a family business. His father, Laird Jerman, retired from the department as a sergeant after 30 years on the department.

Officer Jerman realized police work was a stable job and observed how it helped support his family when he was growing up.

“When I got out of the academy, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well,” he said. “A lot of people knew me through my dad. They knew me since I was 1 or 2 years old.”

Having family members on the force gives you a good core support system, he added. “In the police department, they refer to a police family. I think having your own family members in there just exemplifies that,” he said.

Sgt. Jerman said, “It was an honor that Nick decided to follow in my footsteps. I was shocked. I had no idea. You have a front-row seat to the greatest show on earth.”

Sgt. Jerman’s brother and Officer Jerman’s uncle and godfather, Wayne Jerman, 52, is the assistant chief of the department. He joined the force a year after his brother.

Sgt. Jerman “was a huge influence and mentor for me early in my career,” Chief Jerman said. “We shared the same passion for police.”

Sgt. Jerman was always interested in riding motorcycles and served in the motor unit. Chief Jerman did not share that desire. His focus was on uniformed patrol, and he led the first Community Action Team, a specialized uniform patrol outfit that focused on high crime areas and quality-of-life issues.

“We always talked about work and the job,” said Chief Jerman.

Chief Jerman said that having family members on the department “says tons of how good an organization we are when you’re willing to refer and encourage members of your family to join. I think it’s embraced.”

Though he worries about all the officers, Chief Jerman said, Officer Jerman is cautious. “Nick is a smart officer,” Chief Jerman said. “He has good street sense. I take comfort in knowing that we are extremely well trained. We’re trained to handle a lot of incidents.”

Chief Jerman shares the enthusiasm and love for police work that his brother and nephew possess. “We’ve had a lot of family get-togethers where we would talk about what was happening on the job,” said Chief Jerman. “I love this job. Every day I could not wait to go to work. I love being a cop. I love working for this department. It’s not your normal job. Every day brings you something different - different cases, different calls.”

• Karen L. Bune serves as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Justice. She is an adjunct professor at George Mason University and Marymount University in Virginia.

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