Jesalyn Heard: Lowell’s Newest Full-Time Officer

Officer Jesalyn Heard has worked for various law enforcement agencies, but none have felt the same as Lowell.

“In a bigger city department, you don’t get a close-knit community,” she explains. Heard says she appreciates both the camaraderie of Lowell’s department and the small-town feel of the city itself.

After working as a part-time officer, Heard was selected to fill a vacant position and sworn-in during a June city council meeting as the newest full-time officer in the Lowell Police Department.

Law Enforcement: Plan B for Career

Heard didn’t initially see herself as becoming a police officer. Instead, she had her eyes set on a career in sports medicine.

She enrolled in a program at Grand Rapids Community College but decided about halfway through that it wasn’t right for her. That’s when she turned her sights on law enforcement.

“It was my plan B,” according to Heard. Her dad, a sergeant with campus security for Grand Rapids Community College, was hesitant about her joining the field, but she says watching him in his role helped lead her to pursue a policing career. “I knew I wanted to help people in some format,” she says.

In 2019, Heard graduated from the Grand Rapids Community College Police Academy. She joined the Kentwood Police Department, where she had interned, but in less than a year, she would find herself in Lowell as a part-time officer.

Lowell: The Right Size

Shortly after beginning her career, Heard was asked if she would be interested in a position in Lowell. “I hadn’t even heard of Lowell,” she says with a laugh. But after a conversation with then-Police Chief Steve Bukala, she agreed to join the department as a part-time officer.

However, as a mother to young children, she eventually left to take a dispatch job with the Kent County Sherriff’s Office. She worked there for almost a year, but quickly realized that she missed policing work. Fortunately, there was an opening in the Lowell Police Department, and Heard was able to return to being a part-time officer.

Asked why she likes being in Lowell, Heard is quick to answer. “People are so willing to help…so kind and supportive,” she says. “And you don’t get that everywhere.”

While Heard has nothing but positive things to say about the Kentwood Police Department, she notes that working in a larger city has a different feel than being in a small town. There’s nothing wrong with the larger forces, but she personally found it wasn’t right environment for her.

Loves Working with Kids

Being able to interact with kids is one of Heard’s favorite parts of her job. “Anything with kids, I absolutely adore,” she says. During her time in Lowell, she’s had children remember her from calls she did a year ago.

On the other hand, she says it’s tough when parents don’t like the police or try to use calling the police as a threat to correct bad behavior. “It sticks with them,” Heard says. That makes it hard to be able to help children – or anyone, for that matter – when they have been taught that the police are something to be feared.

Heard doesn’t live in Lowell, but that’s by design. “I don’t want to live where I work,” she explains. When not on the job, she is busy shuttling her three young children to their various activities. “Some days it’s like, when’s the last time I slept or ate?” she laughs.

Police Chief Chris Hurst says Heard is well-liked by community members and an asset to the force. Now that’s she’s found her place here, we can all hope that Officer Heard will remain with us for the long haul.

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