Facing graduation with a psychology and criminal justice major, Dana Kuipers Grant ’97 didn’t want to go to graduate school. And the only career in criminal justice that interested her was law enforcement. Choosing it, she chose boldly.

“LAPD had the reputation of doing the best officer training in the world,” Grant said. “I wanted the best, and I wanted to be in the middle of everything.”

She got her wish. Accepted into the police academy for the spring class of 1998, she first went through a five-week pre-academy training designed to physically condition female recruits. At the academy itself, a drill instructor ordered her and other recruits through grueling days of physical and mental challenge. About a quarter of the class quit or was kicked out.

“I loved the academy!” Grant said. “I liked the physicality, I liked being pushed. I had never shot a gun. But of 49 people in my class, two shot ‘expert,’ and I was one.

“As a rookie I was dreading being assigned to a rough area, like Southeast Division. I was 23 and scared about gangsters, about getting into fights. What if they didn’t listen to me? I learned that criminals and suspects can tell if you’re brand new by the way you carry yourself. It didn’t take me long to pick that up. Because I had to.

“I spent my rookie year in North Hollywood Division, then three years in Transit Division. But then I got assigned to Newton Division—‘Shootin’ Newton,’ we call it. It’s downtown and has a lot more gangs, a lot more crime. You get a taste of everything: aggravated assaults, robberies, pursuits. I did get involved in fights there. But that’s also where I learned how to be a good street cop.

“It has never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be going home to my two kids after a shift. Police officers tend to think they’re invincible. But also, at LAPD we haven’t lost an officer in a tactical situation in 10 years. That tells you how good our training is. And we run two-man cars. That makes a huge difference. Plenty of times I wouldn’t have stopped someone if I hadn’t had a partner.

“After Newton I helped open a new division— Olympic, near Koreatown—where I trained new officers. Then I went to Rampart Division, an area where Central American immigrants congregate. I trained new officers there, too, and in 2015, my partner and I both earned the Officer of the Year award.

“I’ve been promoted to sergeant and just finished my probationary year. Half of it I spent in a specialized unit that deals with Skid Row. Now I’m in Hollenbeck Division, which is East LA. As a sergeant I’m not the first to respond to a call. I go if the situation is serious, or we have to find a suspect, or do an investigation.

“I absolutely love putting a bad guy in jail, so at least for a while he can’t hurt an innocent person. Hands down that’s why I love this job.

“But being in the street for 20 years takes its toll. Wearing all the gear, I have constant back and neck pain. And in LA you see stuff—homicides, suicides, abused kids— every day you see crazy stuff. That takes a toll, too. You think you’re immune to it, but subconsciously, you’re not.

“My faith helps me through so much. I know God is watching over me out there. That’s probably why I’m not afraid.”