“I don’t think I’m deserving. I’m grateful that people think so much of the things I do, but I know there’s a lot of people that do a lot more.”
— Craig Police Department Det. Jen Kenney about being honored as Citizen of the Year.
The men and women of Craig’s public safety community are a special breed, working in a dangerous field most would say is more of a calling than a job.
In addition to daily demands the Craig Police Department has a longstanding philosophy that requires community involvement and CPD prides itself on attracting compassionate employees that genuinely care about the people they serve.
But there is one officer that exudes this philosophy more than the rest.
It may be surprising, not because Det. Jen Kenney is a woman in a male-dominated field, but because her workload focuses on some of the most difficult cases to investigate, including sexual assaults, child neglect and juvenile sexual abuse.
“Not to take anything away from the other officers and detectives, but she does get some of the most difficult cases to handle,” said CPD Commander Bill Leonard. “It takes a lot of time, a lot of interaction with the victims and it requires more than just a female officer to handle those kinds of cases.
“It takes a special kind of person to do the type of work Jen does.”
Like most CPD officers Kenney’s commitment to the Craig community extends beyond the walls of the Moffat County Public Safety Center.
She is a past Grand Futures Board member and a current member of the Child Protection Team, Substance Abuse Prevention Board and the Sexual Assault Response Team.
Each year Kenney also purchases Christmas gifts for children of needy families, contributes to Moffat County United Way and donates most of the clothing to the Community Budget Center.
Because of these contributions to Craig and Moffat County the Craig Daily Press recently honored Kenney as its 2012 Citizen of the Year.
"When deciding on a recipient for Citizen of the Year, we try to find a member of the community who really represents the best things about the people of Moffat County and Northwest Colorado," Daily Press editor/publisher Bryce Jacobson said. "We believe Jen Kenney more than meets that expectation, and we're proud to be able to honor her with the Citizen of the Year award."
Det. Jen Kenney, 35, was born and raised in Denver.
She attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and in 1999 earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology.
Upon graduation Kenney dreamed of becoming a forensic pathologist, but wasn’t ready to jump right into graduate school.
One of her cousins, a homicide detective in Denver, invited Kenney to consider working in the crime lab.
It was while taking a tour of the Denver Police Department's crime lab and examining old case files that Kenney decided she wanted to be a police officer.
In January 2000 she was enrolled in the police academy at Rangely and by June of that same year she was hired by the Craig Police Department.
Since then Kenney has served two years with the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team — now known as the All Crimes Enforcement Team, one year as a school resource officer and in 2005 was promoted to detective.
In that same 12-year period Kenney met her husband, Kelby, a field supervisor for Monument Well Service, and had two children, Joelle, 9, and Hunter, 7.
When talking to friends and coworkers the word compassionate is often used to describe Kenney both in and outside of the office.
It’s a personality trait she credits to her parents.
Growing up Kenney and her siblings received three presents each at Christmas “because Baby Jesus received three gifts and my parents didn’t believe in overindulgence,” Kenney said.
During the holidays Kenney’s mother, a schoolteacher at West High School in Denver, taught her kids to be grateful for everything they had by having them help pick out Christmas presents for her less fortunate students.
It’s a tradition Kenney carries on today with her CPD colleagues and a life lesson that motivated much of her involvement in so many programs geared toward children.
“With my job and what I see I feel like it’s easier to make a positive difference in a child’s life,” Kenney said. “You can definitely help adults get back on the right path, but kids don’t always have somebody there to be their voice and I think it is important to be a positive influence.”
It’s that desire to be an advocate that makes Kenney uniquely successful at her job, Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said, particularly since the last year was highlighted by a high profile child pornography case and the conclusion of a longtime child sexual assault investigation.
In one of those cases Kenney received a lot of credit from a victim who was struggling with the decision of whether or not to testify in open court.
“Her compassion for victims is absolutely incredible,” Vanatta said. “She understands how difficult it is for victims to testify in court and relive it, and she’s really good at providing support to victims to help them through it.”
Though Kenney believes it takes a good investigator to put themselves in the victim’s shoes, she doesn’t believe the work she does is worthy of any special recognition.
“I don’t think I’m deserving,” Kenney said of the Citizen of the Year award. “I’m grateful that people think so much of the things I do, but I know there’s a lot of people that do a lot more.”
Vanatta wouldn’t necessarily agree.
“Contrary to how humble Jen is about what she accomplishes at work, she does a lot of great things in this community,” he said. “I’m really proud of her from that perspective and I think she is a great representative of the police department in that capacity.”
Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org