Mildred Johnson, Ph.D. (ADP ’04, MSOL ’06)

Dr. Millie Johnson

"I Stepped Forward."

Mildred Johnson, Ph.D. (ADP ’04, MSOL ’06)

Criminal Justice Professor

Law enforcement can be lonely and dangerous says former police officer Dr. Mildred Johnson: "People love you when you're there to help, but they don't when you're there to enforce a law that they're breaking." However, during her 14-year record of service with the City of Pittsburgh, Mildred always made an effort to treat people with love and respect.

After working in business for a few years, Mildred left her job because she had a desire to help others in a tangible way. She felt a strong pull to law enforcement. After much prayer, she applied to the police academy. "I never thought in a million years that I would get in," Mildred recalls. Her family was also a bit skeptical: "They told me that I didn't have what it took to become a police officer, that I was too soft."

However, she was accepted and it changed her life. Upon becoming a police officer, "I got an entirely new perspective on life," she reflects. With this new perspective came some challenging realizations. "Sometimes there's no restorative justice. A lot of people know nothing but a life of pain, so it was difficult for me to see the brokenness in so many people all the time."

Furthermore, she witnessed people devote themselves to violence and crime without ever looking for a change. "I think that was one of the most heartbreaking parts of my job," she says. "I wasn't a savior and I couldn't save them. Sometimes I would cry.

"But sometimes I would see people be transformed." For example, Mildred recounts several times she has run into people in public years after she has arrested them. Some have thanked her for helping them to get their lives back on track. Some have told her that being arrested was the best thing that ever happened to them.

"In part, restorative justice is rehabilitation," says Mildred. "It is getting people through the steps they need to be a law-abiding citizen. But for me, restorative justice means forgiveness. God forgives and we need to as well."

And as an officer in law enforcement, Mildred has certainly been in positions where she could have allowed hatred to enter her heart. She has been violently attacked, once being lit on fire and another time stabbed. Mildred says that is only with God's help that she has been able to forgive those who have hurt her. "Forgiveness is being able to look beyond people faults and see them how God sees them," she believes.

When Mildred became a supervisor, she managed programs for youth and the elderly. She felt particularly passionate about the work she did with the Pittsburgh AIDS Association. She and her team would go into rough communities and teach seminars. Using gift cards and food as incentive, Mildred would often be amazed at the crowd these classes were able to draw. "People would come because they wanted to be educated," says Mildred. "These would be people who never left their front porch except to get groceries or drugs."

She saw so many attendees transform their lives for the better— moving into a better neighborhood, getting healthcare or coming out of the welfare system. "We were able to show people that they could live a fruitful life if they took the needed steps. We offered hope, and people grabbed onto it."

Eventually, Mildred became a chaplain for the Pittsburgh law enforcement officers. To supplement her knowledge, she attended Geneva and earned her B.S. in Community Ministry in 2004. She learned how to improve her relationships not only in the church community, but also in the community that she was tasked to serve and protect. And her Geneva professors were her role models: "I learned the importance of transformational leadership; Geneva truly prepared me for my life's work."

She graduated with her degree in May and was back in school by the fall. She once again chose the Christ-centered education provided at Geneva and earned her Master's in Organizational Leadership in 2006. "The degree taught me to lead to the best of my ability and serve with a servant's heart," she says. In 2014, Mildred earned her Ph.D. in Strategic Leadership at Regent University.

Mildred shares that she has wanted to be a teacher since she was young. Many years later, that desire has been realized. And just has she has helped to transform lives through her career in law enforcement, Mildred hopes to play a part in transforming the lives of her students.

-Richard Louther '15