ITHACA, N.Y. — An officer from Ithaca College was honored this week for her role in tracking down a man who had been taken explicit photos in a locker room and posted them online.
The incident of unlawful surveillance took place at the Ithaca College Fitness Center, a facility by thousands of people every day during the semester, according to Bill Kerry, director of public safety and emergency management.
“Some real disturbing photos had been posted online and social media and stuff,” he said.
Officer Jennilee Valentin, 30, spearheaded efforts to gather more information, track down leads and work with the District Attorney’s Office to ensure an arrest and conviction.
“She ended up getting a confession during a great interview with the defendant,” Kerry said.
Not only did Valentin land the confession, but she also focused on ensuring that the people who were photographed were given privacy at a time when Kerry said police were worried about the suspect retaliating.
To recognize her work on the case, the Kiwanis Club of Ithaca-Cayuga presented Valentin the Frank G. Hammer Officer of the Month Award on Monday.
District Attorney Matt Van Houten said, “The concept of being aware that this individual was also looking to figure out who had reported him — and the awareness of protecting the community and protecting the individual who reported it so as there weren’t any negative consequences against them — is really important in terms of encouraging people to report things and communicate with law enforcement and feel that they can be protected as they do report things that are not appropriate.”
Valentin said the case was really one of the first opportunities she’s had to work in an investigative capacity.
She was previously a police officer in Queens for a year after teaching health to high school kids in Harlem for about three years. The Brooklyn native, however, decided to apply as a police officer in Ithaca after she missed the small town feel of the city. She’d earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Ithaca College a few years earlier.
“Ithaca is a second home,” she said.
Featured image: Officer Jennilee Valentin (center) accepts the Officer of the Month award Monday afternoon with (left to right) Bill Kerry, director of public safety and emergency management; Mimi Melegrito, president of the Kiwanis Club of Ithaca-Cayuga; District Attorney Matt Van Houten, and Lieutenant Tom Dunn. (Photo by Jolene Almendarez/The Ithaca Voice)