Alum becomes third in state police command

Karen Pinch ’88 occupies the highest position a woman has ever held in the R.I. state police

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, November 18, 2013

Karen DeLucia Pinch ’88 was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the Rhode Island State Police earlier this month, making her third in command of the force and the highest ranking woman in the organization’s history.

In her new role as Commanding Officer of the Department of Public Safety and Training, Pinch — a Rhode Island native who grew up in Jamestown — is responsible for overseeing the various divisions and agencies that “fall under the umbrella of public safety,” she said. This includes the E-911 emergency telephone service, the state fire marshal, the state police training academy and central public safety offices.

Colonel Steven O’Donnell, state police superintendent, said Pinch’s promotion “is based on her long-standing commitment to leadership within Rhode Island State Police.”

Pinch said she has been “amazed” by the support she received in the wake of her promotion. Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 P’17, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and former and current state police force members all offered their congratulations, she added.

Though she spent the past 21 years rising through the ranks, Pinch said she never anticipated a career in police work as an undergraduate. “It wasn’t really anything I had grown up thinking I would do.”

After graduating from Brown — where she studied both psychology and organizational behavior and management — Pinch took a job in sales but soon realized she was not following the right path, she said.

Around the same time, the state police were conducting “pretty significant recruitment for women and minorities,” Pinch said. Attending informational sessions and speaking to current officers captured her interest, and she began the lengthy application process for the Rhode Island State Police Training Academy.

Pinch was accepted as one of few females in a group of 35 recruits, but she said her experience as a woman was not very different from that of a male recruit. “If you can do what everyone else can do, you earn respect from your peers.”

Pinch “has always shown a consistent and steady leadership style since she was a young recruit,” O’Donnell said.

In the years following graduation from the program, Pinch worked as a trooper on patrol in each of Rhode Island’s six barracks. Each unit had “different personalities” and challenges, she said.

A few years later, Pinch applied to teach at the training academy, a job she said some of her fellow officers told her she was unlikely to get due to her limited experience. But she was selected to teach the 1994 session and has returned as a teacher several times since.

Pinch switched between patrol and teaching for several years before joining an administrative unit, Traffic Planning and Research, in 1999 following the birth of her second child. She worked there until 2006, when she returned to the barracks to become an assistant patrol commander. Pinch was promoted to lieutenant for Technology and Communications, another administrative unit, in 2008.

“I’d like to think that it makes me more prepared for my new role that I’ve had exposure to all of these different things,” she said.

Pinch was promoted to captain in January 2012, at the time the highest rank ever reached by a woman and the first time a woman served on the police command staff. She was promoted to major in January, and O’Donnell announced her most recent promotion to Lieutenant Colonel in a press release Oct. 29.

Though no other woman has served at the same level as her in the state police, Pinch said being a woman in the force has not defined her experience in the traditionally male-dominated field. She always had the same types of duties, responsibilities and expectations as her male counterparts, she said.

While O’Donnell called Pinch’s new position “a milestone for her and her gender,” he added that her promotion came due to “her capabilities and outstanding service” and his confidence that she is the best candidate for the job.

Pinch’s promotion may be unprecedented, but she said she has always had a role model — her mother. Lenore D’Onofrio DeLucia ’58 AM’61 PHD’63 P’88 was vice president for administration and finance at Rhode Island College, and Clement DeLucia ’63 P’88, her father, was a professor of psychology at the University.

“For a woman to be a vice president in a college in those days … it didn’t happen every day,” Pinch said.

Pinch, who has two children with her husband, said balancing work and family life became easier once she stepped into administrative positions with more standard schedules. But while she was working in the barracks, the unpredictability of her schedule made spending time with family more difficult, sometimes forcing her to miss holidays or special occasions.

“There have been times when it’s been sort of a bummer,” she said, but “they’re proud enough of me that they don’t let it bother them.”

Pinch replaces Wilfred Hill, who resigned in mid-October due to allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a former state police candidate, the Providence Journal reported Oct. 28.