Former Gaston teacher takes on new challenge, childhood dream

Inspired by the TV show “Law & Order” and a police officer’s talk at her school, 10-year-old Lauren Quinsland wanted to be a cop when she grew up.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE - Pacific University alumna Lauren Quinsland has returned to town as the Forest Grove Police Department's community outreach specialist.

Twenty-three years later — after detours to Kazakhstan and England — the Gaston resident isn’t exactly a cop but she’s close. The Forest Grove Police Department recently hired her as its new Community Outreach Specialist.

Filling the void left by Teresa Kohl, who retired in July, Quinsland made her debut Oct. 7 at BJ’s Coffee Co. during the department’s quarterly Coffee with a Cop event.

She’ll help run the city’s Neighborhood Watch program, the Citizen’s Police Academy, National Night Out and the Help Me Home program for individuals with mental disabilities, as well as any other police-related events that come up.

Her brother, who also works in law enforcement in the Portland area, told Quinsland she’d be a better lawyer than an officer because she talks too much.

And she admits he’s mostly correct. After all, it was Sam Waterston’s district attorney character on Law & Order that got her interested in the job in the first place.

But talking will be a big part of her new duties.

“My job is to increase accessibility and transparency for the department,” Quinsland said. “Anything that makes the police more accessible. You want a tour of the department? I’ll give you a tour.”

She views her new job much like a public relations position, educating citizens about the officers’ roles. And Quinsland is no stranger to education.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE - New Community Outreach Specialist Lauren Quinsland (right) attended the Forest Grove Police Department's Coffee with a Cop event last Wednesday with Capt. Mike Herb and Chief Janie Schutz, who described Quinsland as 'a smart lady who can read people very well.'

She enrolled at Pacific University in 2000 and earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and history in 2004, as well as a master’s in teaching in 2005.

After college, Quinsland taught social studies at Gaston Junior High and High School for six years.

Her next adventure took her to Asia, where she spent two years teaching at an international school in Kazakhstan.

Next, Quinsland moved to England and joined the nonprofit Christian organization Pioneers U.S.A., which aims to promote Christianity to “unreached peoples” by performing various humanitarian acts in remote parts of the world (feeding the homeless, building churches and/or working in agriculture).

When she returned to the U.S. after an injury, Quinsland began taking classes at a small Bible school in Corvallis to continue her professional development and to honor the 30 hours of Pioneers-required theology and Bible study.

Then last May, she was sitting in the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Hillsboro having her fingerprints taken for substitute teaching registration when she found herself thinking about her childhood dream of becoming a police officer. She felt a push to pursue it.

When the FGPD posted the ad for Kohl’s position, Quinsland became one of more than 100 people to apply. After intensive interviews and writing tests, she got the job in September.

“Teresa blazed the path for what a Community Outreach Specialist should be,” Police Chief Janie Schutz said. “Lauren is a solid follow-up to what Teresa started.”

Quinsland believes she was hired for her computer aptitude — not one of Kohl’s strong points, as Kohl herself laughingly admits — and her communications skills, including her familiarity with six languages.

“I only speak English fluently,” Quinsland said, “but I’m proficient in Spanish, emerg-ing in Russian, can speak a little Welsh, and knows bits and pieces of Bahasa Indonesian and West African French.”

Basically, she said of the Russian, Welsh, French and Indonesian languages, “I could order a meal or get myself to a hospital.”

Most importantly, “Lauren has a heart for the position — a caring heart,” Schutz said. “She is who she is and has no airs about her. She’s not afraid to engage people.

“As a department, we’re not going to get ahead without people who care.”

“Lauren has hit the ground running,” said Capt. Mike Herb. “At our first Coffee with a Cop, she pulled up a chair to a table full of regulars that meet nearly every day, introduced herself and started chatting with the group.

“This is the type of person we wanted for this position.”

What's Up With the Boom?

Along with buying rounds of coffee and introducing residents to new

Community Outreach Specialist Lauren Quinsland, Forest Grove police officers who attended last Wednesday’s Coffee with a Cop event also fielded questions on how they respond to mental health calls, how neighbors should handle loud parties, and what the heck is that loud “boom” sound near University Avenue and Main Street.

Apparently residents in that area have been hearing a strange booming for the past several weeks.

The resident who reported the sound to police “is pretty upset about it,” according to FGPD Capt. Mike Herb. “She says noises have been felt and have even rattled their home, waking them up at night and jolting them during the day.”

According to the resident, the booms are different volumes and occur almost hourly, Herb said.

While no police officers have heard the sound, he said, social media comments indicate other neighbors have.

Residents in the area are encouraged to notify police if the noise persists.

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