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This fall, the Pi Kappa Gamma sorority celebrates its 40th anniversary with a banquet to be held the evening of November 1. Founded in 1968, Pi Kappa Gamma is the oldest sorority at Lakeland. It was established to help women come forward, be recognized, and express themselves. One of the accomplished alumnae returning for this memorable occasion is Pi Kap sister Barbara Steinberg `73. Barbara has fond memories of her time at Lakeland, especially hanging out in the Muskie Inn having coffee with friends and being in the sorority. In 1979 Barbara was the first woman to be hired by the Paramus, NJ Police Department and the 10th woman to be hired as a police officer in the entire state.
Barbara had first come to Lakeland specifically because of the Winterim program. She had dreamed of a career as a veterinarian and the program gave her the opportunity to work in a vet's office. However, the first time she had to help put an animal to sleep, she determined it was not the right line of work for her. She majored instead in sociology, but always had a curiosity about criminals. After graduation, she worked as a correctional officer in West Virginia, then as a social worker back in her hometown of Paramus, before becoming a police officer.
Barbara got the "call" to join the police force in the form of a challenge. She had been working with the police department in her capacity as a specialist in juvenile runaways for several years, and was speaking on a panel with the chief of police when he made the comment to the audience that he would never hire a woman on his force. Barbara peered down at him from the other end of the table and said, "Chief, I take that as a challenge."
Shortly thereafter, she entered the police academy, and started the training to get herself in shape to be able to pass the many physical tests. In 1979, she joined the force, much to chief's chagrin. "It was horrible," she says. "I was a trail blazer then, and it's still a good old boy's network." Barbara cites that even today, women make up only 3% of the entire police force in the state of New Jersey.
Barbara is the Patrol Lieutenant in charge of the twelve men on her squad, overseeing all the tasks that the men must perform. She states, "It's nice to be the Queen." Time and again, her men come out as being first on the force for arrests and tickets. She treats her squad with care and respect; once a week is pizza night, and every Sunday morning is bagels and "fellowship" with the guys. She knows the birthdays of all her men, knows the names of their wives and children.
Barbara loves her work and despite her down-home attitude toward her squad, takes her job dead seriously. She says she loves walking into chaos and making sense of it, "a bad auto scene, a burning house, I have to put it all in order." Barbara's special area of expertise is domestic violence. "I don't like seeing injustice in the world, especially towards women and the elderly. Someone has to fight for these people."
She remarks that police work has changed greatly since 9-11, with officers needing to be better educated and more well-rounded. When asked about the dangers inherent to police work, Barbara shrugs this off, saying "You put it out of your mind. We see some horrific things. No one can understand the kind of garbage we see. Some things will haunt me for a day or two, but then I move on."
Barbara has a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice from Ramapo College in Mahwah, NJ and is working on her Ph.D. at Rutgers. She teaches CJ courses at Bergen Community College in Paramus. Barbara Steinberg will speak to the Criminal Justice Club of Lakeland College at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, October 31 in Laun 109. All alumni and students are invited at attend.