One night, while on bike patrol in Mission Hills, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer Lisa Herman and her partner were trying to stop a man suspected of drug-related activity from loitering in the street.
“He’s just standing there refusing to leave, and then my partner goes, ‘You know, my partner here was in the Israeli army before she came on,’ and he starts running in the opposite direction,” recalled Herman, 47, a Beverlywood Jewish mother of four. “It was the funniest thing.”
But perhaps there was reason to be intimidated. Herman a petite woman whose tough New Jersey accent clashes with a friendly demeanor was both the national 10K track champion of Israel and three-time winner of the Tel-Aviv Marathon in the early 1990s.
A former combat fitness trainer in the Israeli Defense Forces, she earned the nickname “The Herminator” from her LAPD peers after receiving the physical fitness award for her recruitment training.
And once, on a dare, she cropped her hair to a “super crew cut” when her fellow male police recruits had to shave their heads upon induction, which is not required of women.
Herman, who now does educational research for the LAPD’s recruitment curriculum, says that joining the department was her calling. But it’s not a common one for observant Jewish women Herman says she has yet to meet another one in the LAPD.
Originally from Wayne, N.J., Herman attended Princeton University as an undergraduate and moved to Israel in 1989, working as a sports psychology researcher for the Wingate Institute in Netanya.
She settled down in Los Angeles in 1998, where, after being a stay-at-home mom, she wanted to find a job “worth my while.” Herman began her recruitment training while in her late 30s in 2006, upon the suggestion of her sister’s friend who worked in the New York Police Department.
“It fit my lifestyle and way of thinking,” Herman said. “A lot of what being a police officer is, despite what you see on television, is helping people, figuring out their problems. Whether it’s a burglary or a rape problem, it’s all about reaching out, seeing what needs to be done.
“You never know what hashem has planned for you,” she said. “I know hashem had planned for me to do this.”
Following the 18-month recruitment training and probationary period, Herman did about 26 months of patrol work, mostly in the San Fernando Valley.
She spent 12-hour days car patrolling for the Safer Cities Initiative in Mission Hills and 10-hour days on patrol with the LAPD bicycle unit.
“I loved the bike team, because it was a small unit,” she said. “We got to know each other, our habits, and worked well together. You got to do your exercise because we rode around the city a lot that was fun too.”
Herman has apprehended burglars and once tackled a man fleeing into the Beverly Grove shopping center after he swung his fist at her. But stories like this one generally stay at work — her husband only found out about it a year and a half later.
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