Leemhuis retires as only sixth woman promoted to Pa. State Police major

PUNXSUTAWNEY — April 13, Kim Leemhuis put on her uniform as a Pennsylvania State Police trooper for the last time, as after 25 years of service, Leemhuis formally retired.

She was only the sixth-ever woman to be promoted to as a major in Pennsylvania State Police history.

Despite all the changes the state police has undergone since Leemhuis began, there are still not many female officers — only about four percent.

“This is not a traditional role for women,” she said.

Even though Leemhuis enjoyed much success as a police officer, it was very different from her original career path.

While attending Penn State, her original field of study was animal science. But because she was unwilling to make the full commitment to become a veterinarian, she decided to pursue her other interest, criminology. She had always been interested in the science and psychology behind criminology, so she changed her major to administration of justice.

After graduation, Leemhuis began working at a juvenile facility but quickly realized that financially, employment at a juvenile facility was not working for her.

Leemhuis began looking into the police field, and as a result, she took and passed the state police test, which led to her acceptance into the Pennsylvania State Police academy in Hershey in 1986.

After her graduation in October 1986, her career would hold many promotions that took her across the state.

Leemhuis was first stationed in Troop C Punxsutawney. Promoted to corporal in 1995, she then moved on to Troop F in Stonington, and then to Troop F in Emporium.

In 1996, Leemhuis returned to Troop C as a corporal and was stationed at the Clearfield barracks.

In May 1999, she was promoted to sergeant and went to the Bureau of Technology Services in Harrisburg, where she worked for four years and was also promoted to lieutenant.

In 2003, she again returned to Troop C, serving as staff lieutenant and was later promoted to the troop’s patrol lieutenant.

In 2007, she was promoted to captain and returned to Harrisburg, where she was in charge of the recruitment program for the entire state police force.

When Captain David Neal retired in 2008, she returned to Punxsy, this time as the commanding officer.

Leemhuis worked in Harrisburg once more before returning to Punxsy in April 2011 as major and Area IV Commander, which put her in command of Troops C, B, D and E.

She believes that becoming a policewoman puts a strain on family life. If promoted or transfered, the job can move officers away from their homes.

“Many times, women will start out in the Pennsylvania State Police, and then they decide that they want to get married and have a family,” she said. “Often times, that is very difficult for them to balance both those roles, so then they chose to go with the more traditional role and become a mother.”

Fortunately for Leemhuis, she always had a very supportive husband, John, in regard to her career choice, as she spent about seven to eight years away from home.

She cites three accomplishments that stand out in her mind above the rest, including the investigation she led into the shooting deaths of Wayne and Victoria Shugar, of Snyder Township, in April 2010.

Earlier this year, Steven P. Rebert, of Emporium, was found guilty of their murders and sentenced to four life sentences without parole.
“Having been the commanding officer of the troop and just encouraging those investigators and watching the work that they put into that case, that was one of my greatest moments,” Leemhuis said.

Another one of her memorable moments was serving during the G-20 Summit of 2009 in Pittsburgh.

The gathering of many world leaders in one place normally brings about a level of civil unrest, but the 1,200 members of the Pennsylvania State Police — with the majority coming from the western part of the state — were able to keep things under control.

“The Pennsylvania State Police carried themselves in such a professional manner,” Leemhuis said. “Because we were prepared, and we had trained for that (civil unrest), we discouraged a lot of that (civil unrest),” she said. “That was a great moment of my career.”

Another time Leemhuis’ leadership skills shined was when she was working as a corporal while stationed in Clearfield. She was working with two troopers during a midnight shift when they received a call from a police agency in Centre County.

A young boy had been abducted from Centre County, and the agency believed he was at a camp in Clearfield County. Leehmuis played a large role in rescuing the young boy.

She never regrets becoming a trooper and advises others to pursue the career that has given her so much satisfaction.

“It’s a great career; I wouldn’t change a thing,” Leemhuis said. “I’ve had opportunities that not many people in this world ever get.”

She said the part she will miss most about the job is the people.

“We see a side of each other that the general public does not see,” she said. “We go to a crime scene or we’re at a crash scene, how it impacts us, no one else really knows that.”

Even though Leemhuis will miss her job, she looks forward to spending quality time with her husband. They plan on traveling, attending more family gatherings and doing volunteer work.