To protect and read

Sgt. Jennifer Murphy (BA ’00) with the Tulsa Police Department is giving back to the City of Tulsa through a community impact program that encourages children in low-income and high-crime areas to read.

In addition to supervising officers and keeping the city safe, Murphy is active with community policing. Inspired by personal experience, she is developing a project to support youth literacy in the Tulsa area.

Absence of encouragement

Growing up, Murphy lived in a household where education wasn’t considered a priority. “There were years where I missed 30 to 40 days of school,” she explained. “My mom is psychotic bipolar, so she would keep me home as a comfort for her.”

Murphy’s chaotic home environment and lack of support from family caused her to struggle in school. “I was probably labeled as a child who would not succeed,” she said.

In high school, good friends helped her with basic writing skills such as punctuation and grammar. She graduated with a 2.0 grade-point average and was admitted to The University of Tulsa on academic probation because she had not taken the SAT or ACT.

A chance at TU

Alumni and TPD officers Amley “Popsey” Floyd and Jennifer Murphy at TU’s career fair

The most Murphy had ever written was a two-page paper, and she was anxious about the work that awaited her as a psychology major, but she stuck with it. “I knew it was something I needed to do for my success. When comparing education across the state, I think by far TU’s curriculum is superior.” Murphy explained.

She adjusted to student life at TU, thriving in small classroom settings with mentorship from her professors.

During college, she worked part time at a bank and would listen to stories told by the police officer who worked security. She had the opportunity to go on a ride-along with an officer. “From there, I decided that this is the path for me. I want to go into law enforcement,” she said.

Service to the community

Murphy with fellow Tulsa officers passing out school supplies.
Murphy with fellow Tulsa officers passing out school supplies

Murphy’s childhood was an important factor in her decision to become a police officer. Law enforcement visited her home a number of times, so as an adult she requested to work in communities where she can relate to residents: low-income, high-crime areas of Tulsa. “There were a lot of things that I had to overcome,” Murphy said. “It’s important for kids to have encouragement and positive mentors in their lives.”

She facilitates reading programs like Little Libraries, a project that provides a book nook for children in crime-riddled neighborhoods. “Officers will be placed in schools and (housing) complexes to read to kids in the communities that they serve,” she explained. A total of 15 mini-libraries eventually will be housed in communities around the city for all children to keep busy and practice their reading. The project also helps promote a positive image of police officers as helpful, not hurtful.

Old newspaper stands before being turned into Little Libraries.
Old newspaper stands before being turned into Little Libraries

The libraries are old Tulsa World racks that volunteers refurbished and painted bright blue. The exterior will feature photos of dogs from a local shelter dressed in superhero costumes. “Our firefighter and police officers are the heroes in our community,” Murphy explained.

Despite her rough childhood, the TU grad is now a hero for other kids who grew up in similar situations. Murphy said she wants to prevent children from struggling like she did, and with her personal experience, TU education and law enforcement career, the Little Libraries project is one way she can make a difference for Tulsa’s youngest residents.

You can make a donation to the Little Libraries project by contacting the Tulsa Crime Prevention Network at 918-585-5209. Learn more about TU’s psychology programs and trauma research on the Psychology Department homepage.