Deputy chief shares what it takes to be a great cop

Julia Engen joined the Irvine Police Department as a patrol officer in 1994. Today she serves as the department’s first female deputy chief. She recently talked about her mom’s influence, her love of road trips … and the key to being a great cop.

Who was your role model growing up?

My mother. She was  tough, fiery and determined in  the  face of adversity, yet she was kind and extremely generous.  If  anyone told her she couldn’t do something or wasn’t the right size, shape or gender, her response was, “Watch me.” Just after she passed  away in April 2013, I found myself in a tough fight with cancer. She taught me to never quit, and I believe that spirit is what carried me through my treatment and keeps me going now. (April marks five years all clear.)

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.

I love road trips. It drove my kids crazy when they were little. My idea of a great time is seeing Americana from the road. World’s Largest Ball of Twine? Count me in!

What’s the key to being a great police officer?

The simple answer  is  being a great person. It is noble work to want to dedicate your life to the
service of others. I believe it is a calling for those who, at their core, have a servant’s heart. Of course there are other “requirements of the job” that must also be in place, but those skills absent having a heart for the work are just that —“job skills.”

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.

I love to rescue beautiful old things. I have a little space in an antique mall, and I’m always on the lookout for discarded, unappreciated little treasures, especially hand-crafted  pieces like paintings or needlework. I enjoy cleaning them up or restoring them and seeing them go to a new home to be appreciated.