Deborah Friedl, Criminal Justice, Psychology
“Criminal Justice was a great fit for me.”
Deborah Friedl ’83 is a true Lowellian, having graduated from Lowell High before enrolling at the University of Lowell. First a psychology major, she tacked on a second one—in the newly formed criminal justice program—and found her place.
“Criminal justice was a great fit for me,” says Friedl, admitting her mother was less enthusiastic about her only daughter’s career choice. There wasn't a lot of time to get used to the thought, either, since Friedl sailed through the civil service exam on her first try, just months after graduation. She and 11 other new Lowell cops (including three women) joined the force at a ceremony at the Somerville Police Academy.
Twenty-eight years later, City Manager Bernie Lynch ’78 named Friedl interim superintendent of the Lowell Police Department – the first woman to hold the post.
Friedl is perched atop a 232-person force, charged with passing the department budget and with cleaning up personnel issues, all while managing every facet of a busy urban force.
As she rose through the ranks, Friedl became an expert in domestic violence cases, combining her police training and her psychology background.
“Nobody calls the cops on their best day,” she says. “Police are called to help people at their most vulnerable: mental illness, substance abuse, missing persons, issues with the elderly and immigrants are often at play.”
While she acknowledges that violence is a real threat to the community and responding officers, she says she’s been trained to be “ready for violence, but prepared for ways to calm the situation if at all possible, using empathy, patience and intelligence.”
Friedl cites the value of creating relationships with female cops through organizations like the International Association of Women Police Officers, where she sits on the board.
She is of two minds about TV’s portrayal of cops, pleased with the surge in interest in police work, but quick to point out that the episodes are unrealistic.
“Nobody is ever grinding away on paperwork and reports, and the methodical, strategic and sometimes tedious aspects of good investigative work are completely ignored,” she says.
Luckily for Lowell, Friedl continues to work hard on all aspects of her job, honored to be holding the interim post.