Kiana might be known as the police officer who jumps into a pickup basketball game or joins a drumline at a BBQ. She might also be known as the police officer who mentors high school students. Any way you know her, she found her calling in policework by being proactive, passionate, compassionate, humble, and open-minded.
“My parents were training me to be a police officer my entire life, they just didn’t know it. And I didn’t either,” Kiana said, when asked how she decided she wanted to become a police officer. She said she learned discipline and structure from her dad, who served in the military, and her mother always put her in charge to look after the house and her siblings when she wasn’t home, and Kiana took that job seriously. She liked enforcing the rules, taking charge, and helping others.
When Kiana was in high school, she saw Nikki Gillum-Clemons, a Bridges Employer Representative, talking to another class. Nikki was dressed nicely, which was “something you didn’t see often” at Kiana’s high school, and Nikki’s presence drew Kiana in. It dawned on her that she wanted to be like Nikki someday – someone who is professional, influential, and someone that somebody else could look up to. She introduced herself to Nikki, and asked how she could get involved with Bridges. Timing wasn’t right to get started right away, but they kept in touch, and soon enough Nikki was helping Kiana prepare for her first interview at Save-A-Lot. A few months into her first job, Kiana was doing great, and Nikki came to her with a new job opportunity in housekeeping at the Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown, where she worked for three years, cross-training in multiple departments. While she was there, a position opened up in loss prevention. She interviewed and applied, but unfortunately didn’t get the job. She felt discouraged, but only for a moment. She set to work researching security and police work.
She discovered that she could put herself through the Police Academy. It would take a lot of work, and sacrifice. Beyond passing physical, psychological and written tests, Kiana also needed more school hours and job experience to become eligible. This meant she had to leave her job at the Courtyard, take a pay cut, and pile on the hours.
Not getting the security job at the Courtyard might have sparked her interest in security, but what truly drove her to make such a sacrifice was her daughter, who was only a few months old at the time. “My daughter made me look more deeply into my heart, and made me stronger, more outgoing, and care more about the world and the future leaders of it. I couldn’t just think about myself anymore, but I needed her to have a good place, and fix the world around her, for her sake and for the youth of our community.”
Kiana kept training and working. One of the biggest periods of growth for her was the two-and-a-half years that she worked in the Bucknell campus police department. Her mom wasn’t sure it would be a good idea, but her dad, who often saw potential in challenging situations, encouraged her to go. She kept an open mind about it, and committed to working there full-time as a Campus Police Officer and a Rape Aggression & Defense Instructor. She spent four days a week at a college campus that was three hours away in the middle of the state, and then head back to Philadelphia for three days to spend time with her family.
She made history at Bucknell for being the only black officer, the only person from the LGBTQ community, and one of the youngest people in their campus police department. She was able to change some students’ perspectives, and it also helped her round out her own experience.
Finally, she qualified to be a police officer with the Philadelphia Police Department. All she had to do was pass physical, psychological, written, and lie-detector tests, do well in the interview, and get hired. No big deal for Kiana, who had been preparing for years.
All her life experiences has made her into the strong woman she is today. She looked up to her mom who founded the New Essence Drill team, and has since loved playing the drums. When her partner and she drove past some kids drumming at a BBQ while on patrol, she told her partner to pull over so she could join in. That parlayed into coaching middle school drum line every Thursday, and made her think more about what patrolling a neighborhood actually means. To Kiana, it means actually being present, not just being a presence.
With that mindfulness, she’s started her own mentoring program for high schoolers called Coffee with Kiana. Kiana has benefitted over the years from working with her own mentors: Alicia who was her drum line coach and first mentor, Nikki from Bridges who helped with her first job, and Jai who helped her with fitness and nutrition throughout her police training. Coffee with Kiana has only been going for a couple months, but the group’s goal is mutual respect. Kiana wants to teach kids how to carry themselves and how to prepare for the future, and she also wants to listen to their stories so she can bring their perspective back to the Philadelphia Police Department so they can improve their work efforts.
Kiana teaches by example, and encourages others in law-enforcement to leave their egos at the door. She says, “egos and badges don’t mix. The people rule us. They’re in charge.” She still has a service and hospitality mindset that she learned at the Courtyard during her Bridges placement in 2010. “Police work is about service. The people are paying taxes and giving me a job. I need to think about how I can serve them.”