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New Carnegie officer comes with impressive dossier

Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
 

Cynthia Senkow is used to the feel of small towns like Carnegie.

She grew up in Leechburg, next to a steel mill. A train ran outside her bedroom window. Now Senkow, 26, will serve as the newest member of Carnegie's police force. She was sworn in on Monday night.

Senkow comes to the job after eight years serving in the U.S. Army, which she joined in her senior year of high school.

“I met with the recruiter on a Wednesday. I was enlisted by Friday,” she said of the Army Reserves. “When I put my mind to something, I do it.”

Senkow served 11 months in Iraq in 2008 for Operation Enduring Freedom. She received an honorable discharge from the Army in January.

Senkow also graduated with a bachelor's degree in criminology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

She said there was never any question that she would go into a law enforcement career, and she had known since middle school she wanted to be a police officer. Her father is a special operations veteran of the Korean War and her brother works for the Central Intelligence Agency, she said. Military values run in her family and led her to a career in law enforcement.

“They were very supportive,” she said. “I don't think they actually thought I'd continue to want to do this with my life. But there was nothing else I ever really considered.”

She said enlisting as a military police officer seemed like a good stepping stone to a law enforcement career. She was 20 when she went to Iraq and celebrated her 21st birthday there.

Being a woman in the military, she said, presented some challenges.

“I think like in anything that is a male-dominated career, you have to work extra hard to get the respect others are just given,” she said. “But that never stopped me or held me back.”

She said some men she worked with were supportive. Others were not.

“It's frustrating at times, but it's also motivating,” she said. “I made sure my standard was the same as the men so they couldn't say I wasn't earning what I was getting.”

She will be the second woman on Carnegie's police force. Chief Jeffrey Kennedy said the last female officer hired was current Sgt. Caulene Lee — 22 years ago.

“I think having another female officer will bring a lot to the department,” he said.

Senkow said the most difficult part of her time overseas was reassuring friends and family at home, who were more worried about her safety than she was.

“Over there, you don't think about it — you do the job to get back home,” she said.

She said coming home was strange.

“Everyday worries were not something I thought were important after being over there,” she said. “What (friends) thought were important wasn't even on my radar. Everyone is expecting you to be straight back to normal. It's not like that.”

Two weeks later, she was in school at IUP. Her support system of family and friends allowed her a smooth transition back into everyday life, she said. She graduated in May 2012. Carnegie will be her first job as a police officer.

Senkow's credentials stood out from the beginning, Kennedy said. She was one of the top candidates out of 30 applications, selected based on credentials, experience, education and test scores.

“Her résumé was very impressive,” he said. “Let's face it: she was in the service, she spent 11 months in Iraq, she has a four-year degree, she was on the dean's list all four years, she was No. 1 at the Allegheny County Police Academy — she's just very impressive.”

Senkow is one of two officers the borough must hire in order to maintain its 13-officer force. The department had been down to 12 officers after then-chief Jeffrey Harbin retired and then-sergeant Jeff Kennedy took his place. The department's second opening came after officer Timothy Clark left for a different department late last year.

Kennedy said he is excited to have Senkow on the force. She shares that excitement.

“I want to be a positive addition to the community,” she said. “With community policing, it's important to get to know the community — to know the people.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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