Rising Through the Ranks

August 23, 2017

By Heather Baker

Growing up in central Illinois, Dr. Lisa Snow ’89 MA ’96 showed an early aptitude for law and dreamed of studying criminal justice at Bradley. She expected to become a lawyer, but when the Peoria Police Department recruited on Bradley’s campus during her senior year, Snow took their placement test. She received a job offer and decided to accept, seeing it as a way to pay for her law degree.

Snow didn’t just love being a police officer; she loved being a Peoria police officer. Even though she was recruited by the FBI and the Secret Service, Snow remained loyal to Peoria as she worked her way up through the ranks. “The hands-on police work is perfect for me and I love the community.”

To assist in her advancement, Snow returned to Bradley for a master’s in counseling and human development and attended the University of Illinois for her doctorate in human resource education. She placed first on her promotional exams for sergeant and lieutenant and made captain on her first try.

Snow and her Police Chief Jerry Mitchell ’90 attended Bradley at the same time, and she credits their success to their Bradley experience. She remembers professors stressing, “Be a leader in your field, be the best of the best.” Snow added, “They had really high expectations and we took it to heart. Early in our careers, [Mitchell and I] expected to one day have a position of command in the Peoria Police Department.”

One of the highest ranking women in Peoria police history and the first assistant chief, Snow reflected, “While it is an honor, I’ve always just believed I need to do the best job no matter what I’m doing. It is cool though.” There weren’t many women in the department as Snow rose through the ranks, but several women now hold positions of rank. Snow is working to increase the diversity of the entire police force so it reflects the community it serves. She also is working on social service programs, collaborating with other agencies for grants and making sure the police and the community are working together. She helped create the Resident Officer Program and a new marketing initiative featuring photos of department officers displayed around Peoria with a dual purpose of recruitment and reminding citizens that police are real people.

Snow is very proud to contribute as a research and subject matter expert for the Illinois Violent Death Reporting System (IVDRS) which gathers data on homicides and other suspicious deaths. In an attempt to prevent future violent deaths, they investigate whether drugs or alcohol played a factor, cause of death, were there police reports leading up to the death, etc. The data collected goes far beyond the routine crime reporting that the FBI gathers.

The most rewarding part of Snow’s job is seeing justice for victims. “You put in 100 percent effort and make good decisions for the victims, always put them first, and remember that no matter what the outcome, you have to go on to the next case because someone else needs you tomorrow.”

Snow is a part-time teacher in the Criminal Justice department at Bradley and while retirement from the police department looms on the horizon, she plans to continue teaching post-retirement to share her passion and knowledge with future generations.

She offers advice for today’s Bradley students, “Aim high, aim very high. Think big and set high goals. Bradley will give you the tools and foundation you need to advance. The individualized attention, which you won’t find at larger schools, gives you an advantage.”