Making a difference through criminal investigative work — not breaking glass ceilings — is what drew Maj. Ingrid Jonas to the Vermont State Police. But as she prepares to retire next week following a 23-year career as a state trooper, detective and ultimately a trailblazing commander, Jonas has managed to do both.
Her list of superlatives is considerable: She was the first commander of the Office of Fair & Impartial Policing and Community Affairs when it was established in 2016. She was the first woman in the Vermont State Police to lead the Internal Investigations Unit. And she was the first woman in the agency to attain the ranks of captain and major.
Maj. Jonas never intended to achieve those firsts, she said, and she gives credit to the women who broke down barriers serving in law enforcement and the Vermont State Police before she left a career as a victim advocate and joined VSP in 1998.
“There were always women mentors who I looked up to,” Maj. Jonas said, reflecting on the first female state troopers who did great casework, achieved rank and led within the department. “Although we were few and far between, I kept noticing women making these achievements. What we were able to accomplish represented a broader perspective on what policing looks like, who can be at the table, who can be in leadership roles. It did represent a more inclusive approach to helping communities become safer.”
Since 2017, Maj. Jonas has commanded the state police’s Support Services Division, one of the agency’s three divisions. Support Services oversees multiple aspects of VSP operations including fair and impartial policing; the recruiting, hiring and training of troopers; internal investigations; professional standards; community relations; emergency communications centers and dispatch operations; public records and public information; alarm management; Fleet services; and building projects.
Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police, called Maj. Jonas “an invaluable commander and leader.”
“She has worked tirelessly throughout her career to center the needs of victims and to build trust between law enforcement and the diverse communities we serve,” Col. Birmingham said. “Her efforts have helped establish relationships and build bridges that we rely on every day as we continue making progress to modernize policing. And Maj. Jonas has done all this while showing through her example what people — and especially women — can achieve in law enforcement, establishing a trail that others will surely follow.”
Gov. Phil Scott offered his congratulations.
“Maj. Jonas has been an exemplary public servant, devoting her career to the people of Vermont,” Gov. Scott said. “On behalf of all Vermonters, I want to thank her for her dedication and commitment, and I wish her nothing but the best in her well-deserved retirement.”
Prior to joining the Vermont State Police, Jonas, a Waterbury resident, worked as an advocate with the Burlington-based organization then known as Women Helping Battered Woman (now Steps Against Domestic Violence) and Spectrum Youth and Family Services. That experience only deepened her long-held interest in victim advocacy, social justice, and the promise of law enforcement to make a real difference in people’s lives, she said.
“If I became a state trooper, I could have a different role in intervening in domestic and sexual violence,” Jonas said of her motivation for signing up. “I really wanted to be an investigator for violent crimes, and I knew I had to start at the ground level and learn all about public safety.”
Following her graduation from the Vermont Police Academy, Jonas was assigned as a road trooper to the St. Albans Barracks — a busy field station with many cases that helped her hone her skills as an investigator. When an opening came available in the Northwest Unit for Special Investigations, Jonas leapt at the chance: The unit handled crimes involving child victims and sexual assault cases.
“I had the chance to do exactly what I applied to the state police to do, not that many years out of the academy,” she said. “Being able to go in and intervene and build cases and interrupt the assault and the violence and the pattern of abuse was very fulfilling — but there are still cases I think about that were deeply disturbing and sad.”
Over the years, Jonas earned promotions to detective sergeant (in 2006); lieutenant (as the director of the Internal Investigations Unit in 2012); captain (as Staff Operations Commander in 2015); and her current rank of major.
Maj. Jonas said the legacy she hopes to leave is through the example she set in communicating and reaching out to people with respect and compassion.
“To effect real change, it often started with real conversations with people, trying to build commonality, treating people with dignity even when that’s hard, and then doors would open up, and cases would move ahead,” she said. “Being able to communicate on a real basis with people makes all the difference. Bringing your humanity, it actually strengthens you.
“I was able to do what I was really put on the Earth to do, which is advocate for and work hard for people who are suffering, and connect on a real level with people who are struggling, where I can see what their pain is and do something about it.” Maj. Jonas continued. “That is such important work. If you can do the work that you love to do, and it helps pave the way for other people, that’s an added bonus.”
Maj. Jonas’ last day on duty is Friday, May 7. She plans to take the summer off for the first time in years, spend time on her mountain bike and in the woods, catch up with family, and travel. She will be succeeded by Maj. Kevin Lane, who was promoted from captain earlier this year.
- Story, photo by Vermont State Police