It’s been a little more than four months since Jan Easterling stepped into the role of Northeast Patrol Division deputy chief, which means she commands 300-plus law enforcement officials who protect our neighborhood. And while she may be the new kid on the block, she’s no rookie.

Q. What’s your background?

I received both my bachelor and master’s degrees at Oklahoma State in political science. I’ve been in law enforcement for about 20 years. When I came out of the [Dallas Police] Academy, I started in the Southeast Patrol Division. Right before I came to this job, I was the spokesperson for the department. I’ve also been in SWAT twice – as an officer and a sergeant – worked as a lieutenant in the narcotics division, and been in the dignitary protection part of intelligence.

Q. I bet you’ve met a lot of interesting people that way.

Definitely. One was [General] Norman Schwarzkopf. That was small detail – just me and him and his administrative assistant – so I got to really talk to him, and that was pretty interesting. Then, in one small interval, I protected both Winnie Mandela [ex-wife of South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela] and David Duke [Knights of the Ku Klux Klan founder]. Now those were two extremes.

Q. At a recent neighborhood meeting, Councilman Bill Blaydes said you were “no lady to mess with.” What do you think he meant by that?

He was probably talking about the SWAT. In that job, I had the opportunity to do a lot of things I probably never would have done – handling semi-automatic weapons, coming off of buildings and going into windows, kicking in doors, wearing heavy vests and helmets and lots of equipment that probably weighs more than 50 pounds. It’s not something you do all the time, but it’s something I really enjoyed.

Q. How do you like it here so far?

I really like it. The officers out here really work hard, and I’ve been really impressed by them. I hear them on the radio covering each other and offering to help. The community is really strong in this division, especially how the crime watch and associations work. There’s a rather large number of them, and that’s what it takes. It’s not just the police – it’s got to be the citizens involved, too, and they’re definitely involved out here.

Q. What are the three biggest challenges you face in the Lake Highlands area?

As far as crime, it’s our residential burglaries and our BMVs [burglary of a motor vehicle]. I think another thing is that we have the residential community, and we have the apartment community, and there’s a lack of interaction between the two. Somehow, we’ve got to bridge that gap, and that means increasing communication and getting everybody to work together instead of an “us versus them” thing. People may find out they have a lot more in common than they think.

Q. What one thing do you want to emphasize to residents?

I would really stress that I want to have more communication between the residents and the division. We’re here to help them make this a good community to live in, to work in and to play in. We’re getting better. Through the end of November, our crime was down four percent since last year. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re headed the right way.