“Really, I do think the media attention that we often get on this issue is sending an important message, which says clearly: ‘The culture of the New Jersey State Police is changing — and that change is creating new opportunities in law enforcement for women.’”
According to Hennon-Bell, who was tapped last February by Col. Joseph (“Rick”) Fuentes, NJSP superintendent, to organize and then direct the new Homeland Security Branch, the message couldn’t come at a better time.
“Opening our ranks up to females isn’t just a gender issue — it’s also a professionalism issue,” she said, while pointing to recent data showing that only six percent of the nation’s state troopers are women. “I know we’ve gotten better, by emphasizing diversity at every level of this organization.”
Described by former superintendent, Col. Carson Dunbar, Jr., as “a real professional,” Hennon-Bell, a 24-year NJSP veteran was an obvious choice to run the high-pressure anti-terrorism unit.
Hennon-Bell had an outstanding track record as a deputy superintendent-administrator. According to Fuentes, she won kudos for managing the agency’s 2,600 troopers (104 are women) and its $300-million yearly budget with great efficiency. “There was no doubt that Lori had terrific administrative skills,” he says, “or that she was the perfect person to pull the new branch together and make it work.”
For Hennon-Bell, the promotion was a victory over the “gender bias” she sometimes encountered during her early years on the force. Asked where she found the endurance required for the long and sometimes lonely climb from the State Police Academy to chief of the new branch, this commander gives much of the credit to her upbringing. “I guess you could say I’ve got police work in my gene pool,” she notes, recalling that her great-grandfather, grandfather and brother were all policemen in the Princeton, N.J., area.
Hennon-Bell also credits FDU’s master’s program in administrative science with giving her “a big boost.” During two years of study in an MAS degree program offered at the NJSP Division Headquarters in West Trenton, N.J., — one of more than 50 off-campus locations offering the program — Hennon-Bell “learned a lot about administration and public finance, both of which help in this new assignment.”