Wendy Klarkowski isn’t your average rookie police officer.
After years spent as a police dispatcher, Klarkowski, 49, whose interest in law enforcement began in high school, stepped away from her profession in the early 1980s to start a family, only to return three decades later to complete the Surprise Police Department’s police academy.
Always a “people person” and willing to lend a helping hand to others in need, the recipient of the department’s Rookie of the Year award last month knew after returning to work five years ago as a dispatcher that a more hands-on approach to work was something she long desired.
It’s no wonder she relished such an opportunity: law enforcement runs deep in the Klarkowski family.
Her husband is a retired Arizona Department of Public Safety officer and son, Tim, 27, joined the Surprise Police Department as an officer in 2008 — the same year he, too, won the Rookie of the Year award.
Both Klarkowskis said winning the Surprise Police Department’s Rookie of the Year award means a lot, especially because colleagues can’t show favoritism to someone they’re just getting to know and that it typically goes to the most deserving, hard-working candidate.
“It’s something you truly earn,” they said. “You’re establishing yourself right off the bat that you’re someone who will work hard and cares about their job.”
While many husbands and wives meet on the job, and it might not be rare to see father and son working side by side at the office, having a mother and son working in the same building is something far different, as both would attest.
“There was a sign posted in the lunch room one day saying, ‘Throw away your mess after you’re done eating because your mother isn’t here to pick up after you, well, except for you, Tim,’” said the younger Klarkowski of the jokes he’s dealt with since his mom came on board last year.
Wendy Klarkowski, completed the Surprise Police Department’s police academy in May 2009. She learned the ins and outs of law by completing the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board exam.
But it wasn’t always easy. Klarkowski admits she couldn’t complete a pushup prior to the Arizona POST exam, and learning all the intricacies of the law was at times challenging.
Rather than dispatch calls and sit during an entire eight-hour shift, Klarkowski said she wanted to become a reserve officer and be on the go, mingling with residents where she would learn more about their everyday concerns and what’s taking place in their neighborhoods.
“Police officers aren’t always pulling over people and making arrests,” she said. “90 percent of what we do is helping citizens.”
Klarkowski was informed two days before the department’s awards ceremony that she was nominated in the Rookie of the Year category.
“I put a lot of effort into what I do,” she said. “I’m proud of working for the Surprise Police Department, and I try to carry that attitude with me out to the public every day.”
Klarkowski also concedes having her son, Tim, close by on a daily basis, where they can share their day-to-day struggles and accomplishments with one another, is special and tightens their already strong relationship even more.
Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.