Judicial Marshal Sgt. Roode is a motivated, steady supervisor
Editor's note: This is the second of a two-day series profiling women serving in law enforcement positions here in southeastern Connecticut.
Waterford - Judicial Marshal Sgt. Melissa A. Roode said it was an eye-opener when, during her first month on the job, a prisoner at the Norwich courthouse got hold of a pencil and tried to hurt himself.
"I think at that moment I realized how important the job was," she said during a recent interview at the juvenile courthouse in Waterford. "We're here to protect the public and the staff and the prisoners."
At 34, she is younger, by decades, than some of the five marshals she supervises, but her superiors say she garners respect with her quiet and steady manner. Hired in 2006, she was promoted to sergeant in January 2015 after serving as an acting sergeant for six months. She has worked in three of New London County's state courthouses, transporting prisoners to and from their court dates, monitoring them in the courthouse lockups, tracking prisoner movement from the marshal's control center, manning the metal detectors at the courthouse entrances and keeping order in the courtrooms. In her new role, she also handles administrative duties, including attendance, payroll and scheduling.
Roode, who moved to the area from New Britain at age 9, said she always had an interest in law enforcement, mostly because she wanted to help people.
"Naturally I'm a protecter of some sort, a caregiver, wanting to make sure people are safe," she said.
At age 19, she started working security for the Mohegan Tribe and became certified for bike patrol. In 2006, she learned there were openings for judicial marshals and applied. She was "super excited" when she got the call, and began her 16 weeks of training.
"It pushed me to be athletic," she said. "The running part was a big challenge. But after I graduated, I found myself going to Bluff Point and doing runs."
Her first assignment was at the busy Norwich courthouse, where criminal and family cases are heard. She learned everything she could about the job and honed her people skills.
"You're dealing with people who are in a tough situation, really upset," she said. "Sometimes all they need is someone to listen to their problems. That would help them calm down."
Most of her co-workers are men, so she endures a lot of sports talk. She said she occasionally gets the opportunity to talk shopping or other topics of interest with another female marshal.
"Working with mainly men, it's almost like they're a big brother figure," she said. "All the guys I worked with had many more years in than me. I've learned from them."
Roode stayed in Norwich almost two years before going on maternity leave in 2008. Her daughter is now 6 1/2.
In 2008, she started working at the "Part A" courthouse on Huntington Street in New London, where all the major crimes and civil cases are heard. She said she has worked with people from all walks of life and treats them the way she would like to be treated without ever taking her guard down. She has never been assaulted.
"When I got to New London I realized the seriousness of different situations," she said. "There's a lot of people out there that have major issues. To be able to handle that, it takes a special person. People who are in law enforcement overall want to be helpful and want to protect. That's why we took this job."
Roode worked as a field training officer for new recruits to the marshal service, a fun assignment that she said gave her a chance to become more involved and show she took pride in her job.
"I remember telling a few of them, 'Never get complacent. Always try your best,'" she said. "In any job, you may doubt yourself at times. You have to find something that motivates you, keeps you going."
Her supervisors noticed Roode had become a "go-to person."
"She's always motivated, always going the extra mile," said Lt. Kevin Costin. "When I first got here, she helped me out immensely on day-to-day operations."
Now that she is in charge of the juvenile court, Costin said he rarely has to call her for a correction on paperwork. She is a democratic leader rather than an authoritarian, he said.
"She'll get input on issues, but then it comes down to her decision," he said.
Roode, who has been married for 10 years, said that outside of work she likes to live a simple life, spending time with her family, going to the beach, camping and gardening.
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