By: Rachael Andrews
Jennifer Zeunik (MPA ’07) received her Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia and since then, has cultivated a distinguished career in nonprofit administration and criminal justice. She currently serves as the Local Programs Director for the National Police Foundation, a non-membership, non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing policing through science and innovation. Among other programs, they focus on using technology to provide critical, trusted information to law enforcement and first responders in the field.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began intensifying across the country, Zeunik and her organization determined how their organization could support law enforcement during this time.
“My focus area during my MPA was organizational theory and nonprofit management,” Zeunik says. “Through this pandemic, we’ve seen an opportunity for nonprofits to step up their role in civil society.”
“We recognized gaps in which this pandemic was going to impact law enforcement and their ability to do their job,” Zeunik explains. “Since our mission focuses on advancing policing through science and innovation, we wanted to figure out how we could use technology and data to provide as much support to law enforcement as possible.”
In response, the National Police Foundation has developed a Situational Awareness Dashboard for law enforcement agencies that tracks the pandemic’s impact on staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE). This information aids the Foundation in providing the support and resources that law enforcement officials need on the ground. Zeunik and the foundation also organized a webinar for approximately 6,000 law enforcement leaders from around the country to hear the most recent information from and ask questions of experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). “We didn’t want to create new content, but rather connect the pieces and provide trusted information to [those in] the field,” Zeunik adds.
The National Police Foundation has also partnered with Axon, a law enforcement equipment company, to raise money for much-needed PPE for the field, as well as matching and facilitating corporations who want to donate PPE to first responders.
Currently, Zeunik and the Foundation are continuing to build their COVID-19 resources and programs and considering what it will mean for law enforcement now that states are reopening, and how the field can get ahead of the potential problems that will bring, as well as how the Foundation can support law enforcement.
Zeunik maintains that many nonprofit organizations can use this time to align their mission with the needs they see as a result of the pandemic. “None of us can do this on our own, so partnerships and collaborations are really important,” she says.
Zeunik has also been considering ways in which the National Police Foundation may make some of its COVID-19 responses permanent—as a way to prepare for future disasters. The National Police Foundation has done critical incident reviews after major events, like the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida and the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. The COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity for the Foundation to complete or support a review so that the entire law enforcement field (18,000 agencies nationwide) can learn how to prepare for the next major challenge.
Zeunik has learned many lessons over the past few months in helping to coordinate her organization’s response to the pandemic. “In order to get ahead of what law enforcement needs, as well as keep up with regular programming, our timelines get shorter and windows of opportunity get smaller.” Zeunik continues,“But that’s nothing compared to what those on the frontlines are experiencing in this pandemic, so we keep on working.”
For more information on the National Police Foundation and their response to COVID-19, please visit: https://www.policefoundation.org/