WOODWARD, Okla. (AP) — She's the first woman since Woodward was established to be promoted into the detective division of the Woodward Police Department.

That is a distinction that has not been lost on local residents, many who have made a point to step out, when they first saw Det. Jennifer Miller patrolling in Woodward, to meet her and tell her how pleased they were to once again have a woman police officer.

It's an achievement for this area and one that is also meaningful to Miller. She is fully aware about just what this opportunity means not only to her, but for the women who come after her.

"Well, I think it is pretty cool that I am the first woman to serve in this office," she told the Woodward News .

But to be sure, there is a lot more going on with this native northwestern Oklahoma law enforcement officer than her gender.

Miller joined the Woodward Police Department in December after serving nearly eight years for two other city departments as a patrol officer as well as detective. She and husband Ryan Miller and their four children, 14-year-old Kaddin, twins Nathan and Aubrey and Noah moved to Woodward about two months ago and have made it their new home.

"Being on duty with the uniform the first month, every store that I went into, people would talk to me," Miller said. "I had multiple times when women came up and they were just so excited that there was a female officer and that they had seen me in the paper and they welcomed me. And a lot of the cook staff at restaurants would come out and say hi. It seems like it has been really friendly and really nice"

Born in Fairview to working parents who also farmed and ranched part-time, Miller said she knew early what she loved most was spending time out of doors and working and riding the tractor.

"Our family farm is at Southard," Miller said. "Tractors were my passion growing up."

Police work was something that attracted Miller early on inner childhood because of her family's association with many friends who served as Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troopers and as county deputies and city police.

She first took a longing glance at law enforcement as a career when she was a teenager in high school.

"There were a few personal things that happened during my teen years that made me want to pursue helping women who were victims of sexual crimes and domestic violence," she said.

So Miller graduated from Canton High School with a head full of steam to serve in law enforcement, but initially wasn't sure she would be able to find a way into the field through college.

But early on, she was not made aware that she could make this a focus of her studies.

"What I had planned to do was go into dental hygiene because I just didn't know that I would necessarily be able to be a cop. So when I went to college and I found out you could actually study criminal justice, I went to college and got involved in the Cop's Club and then I knew," she said.

So that's exactly how she decided to focus her studies.

"I went to Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva where I studied criminal justice with a minor in conservation law enforcement," she said.

After that, Miller never took a look backward at becoming a dental hygienist.

That was 2001.

In time, Miller applied and was hired on as a police officer in her home town of Canton. In 2009, she attended CLEET (Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training) Academy, a 16-week course all police officers in Oklahoma are required to take.

There were six females in her class, all of whom graduated out of a class that began with about 100 and graduated about 80, she said.

"I was excited about attending CLEET," she said.

In 2010, she returned and began her tour of service for Canton Police Department.

Then regular life came calling, and she had to put some of her dreams on hold for another kind of dream.

"I got pregnant and I resigned because it was too small of a department for them to just put me at a desk. And so when I had my son Noah, I went to Fairview Police Department eight weeks to the day after I had him," she said.

She remained there until late in 2017, when she was contacted by people she knew on the Woodward Police Department.

Longing for a larger, more organized, structured and active police environment, when Miller received the call from an officer friend on the Woodward Police Department informing her of an open position, she was happy to apply.

"I was looking at a couple of different departments at the time," she said. "I was looking at Yukon and I was looking at Enid. I hadn't really considered Woodward until one of the officers here contacted me and the Chief and the Assistant Chief contacted me and said they would like to meet with me."

She said after hearing what Woodward offered, she and her husband thought about it and decided she'd make the move.

Miller is pleased to be able to focus all of her attention on her work now, investigating many diverse crimes, such as extortion, blackmail and grand larceny.

"Honestly my major goal is to bring justice to victims of crimes of violence, of crimes of sexual assault against children and to give them a voice," she said.

Already, in the week that she has begun working in the detective division of the Woodward Police Department, she has worked one child molestation case.

The help in the division comes at a critical time, said Miller's boss Det. Lt. Darren Navratil.

And that's a case she will more than likely be able to get charges on," Navratil said. "She also is working an almost quarter of a million dollar exploitation of a vulnerable adult."

"It was almost a quarter of a million dollars and I am sure they are going to file on that," Miller added.

"Those are two of the biggest cases that in her short time here, she has already handled," Navratil said. "The four days she has been up here, she has already been able to prepare affidavits on those cases for charges. And she is getting ready to submit affidavits on an assault on a child as well."

Navratil said having a female in the detective division has already proven helpful.

"A lot of the time, victims of domestic abuse, who are primarily women, I think like having a woman to talk to and it puts them at ease," Navratil said. "I think there are a lot of times too, when children are victims, they are also more comfortable talking to women. So yeah, it's a plus."

According to Miller her new work for Woodward Police Department as a detective is the kind of work with purpose and it's an endeavor that has proven to be tough and at the same time motivating.

"Everyone thinks of Woodward as such a small town. But it is so much bigger than what I am used to when you go from like 3,000 people to this," she said. "This is just bigger and busier with the same kind of crime, just bigger and busier."


Information from: The Woodward News, http://www.woodwardnews.net