Who has starred on a TV show, fights crime and is a great wife and mother? Leigh Maroni – a born and bred Louisvillian who has made her mark not only on Louisville, but on the police force as well! After a few years with Child Protective Services in the Crime Against Children Unit, she transitioned to the police department and found her home. Now, as a Sergeant in the Louisville Police Department’s Public Integrity Unit, Leigh has a challenging, rewarding and unique job. We are delighted to introduce today’s FACE of Louisville, Leigh Maroni!
When did you realize that this would be your career path? Was there an “a-ha” moment or a certain project that clarified this as a life passion for you?
I was in graduate school at the Kent School of Social Work when a Sergeant from the Crimes Against Children Unit came to speak to my class. At that point, I knew I wanted to work with abused/neglected children. I worked for Child Protective Services for five years. As such, I worked IN the Crimes Against Children Unit working jointly with detectives from the police department. It was there I had the a-ha moment of THIS is what I want to do! I wanted to join the police department. At the age of 29, I was hired by the Jefferson County Police Department.
Describe your role as Sergeant in the Louisville Police Department’s Public Integrity Unit.
My current job is one of an investigative role. Our unit is comprised of commanding officers tasked with investigating criminal allegations within metro government. That could be anyone employed by metro government i.e. Metro Works, Corrections, EMS, LMPD or any outside agency that requests we look into allegations on their department. We investigate all officer-involved shootings. We are different than internal affairs in that internal affairs does administrative investigations while we do criminal investigations.
What is most challenging about your job? Most rewarding?
The most challenging part of my job is the stress of investigating people you may have worked with or had interactions with over the years and knowing that what you find may cost them their job and retirement. I’ve lost friends since doing this job, so I must be doing something right. It’s a necessary evil. The most rewarding part of this job is finding the truth. Did this happen or did it not? When I can vindicate someone through the facts, I feel I’ve done my job.
What is it like to work in this traditionally male-dominated field?
It was a bit intimidating at first. I felt like I was being judged and scrutinized a bit more, but looking back I think that had to do more with being a new officer than being a female. All new officers build a reputation for themselves in how they deal with people and how active they are. I built a good reputation for dealing with people and through my investigations over the years.
Before you became a Sergeant in the Public Integrity Unit, you were a homicide detective. During this time in your life, you were on the A&E TV show, “The First 48.” What was it like to be on such a popular show?
“The First 48” was fun to do because it was at a time when the show was extremely popular (in its first few years). It was one of the only “cop” shows I watched at the time, because it was real and parallel to what I did for a living. I liked seeing how other departments worked. Once the show came here, we were proud to show Louisville and the personalities of the different detectives. It showed our city a face and a human side of the detectives. Doing the show was cumbersome — we often stayed long hours and did follow-up interviews for the camera.
How does it feel to solve a case?
It feels like all the hours and holidays you spent away from your own family were worth it. You don’t get any pats on the back, you may or may not get a thank you, but you know you gave it your all and your hard work paid off. Personal gratification beats a pat on the back any day.
Do any cases haunt you?
I worked a case in early 2015 that hasn’t been solved yet. It was a double homicide, and I had a lot of leads and the case went in several directions, but I was immersed in it before I was promoted and had to hand it off. I still forward leads that I may come across and do a bit of research on certain people to see if we can gain more insight. I stay in touch with other detectives and offer to help when I can. I’d love to see it solved before I retire next year.
It is so cool that you and your sister, former NYC Ballet principal dancer Wendy Whelan, have had such different, yet interesting and successful careers. It seems your parents raised you both to have high standards. What was it like growing up in the Whelan household?
It was a lot of fun. My sister moved to NYC when she was 15. I was 12 or 13 then, and it was just me and my brother left at home. As siblings, we laughed a lot and fought a lot, like most households. I had a fleeting thought of not going straight to college after high school. I told my mom this when I was 17, and I remember her telling me, “Don’t ever rely on anyone to take care of you but you.” I’ve had a job ever since and developed a strong work ethic.
RELATED: Wendy Whelan: FACES of Louisville
When you’re not working, what do you do for fun?
When I am not working, I am with husband and my children (ages 8 and 5). We love music, going to concerts and staying active.
If you weren’t in the career field you are now, what would you secretly love to do?
I’d love to be a photographer, chef or baker.
What is something unique and surprising about you?
I’m very shy and introverted.
What is your favorite thing about Louisville?
The restaurants, music scene and the great parks
What is your best piece of advice?
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Music, laughter and good pizza (family is a given)!
Thank you, Leigh, and thank you to Christine of Christine Mueller Photography for the beautiful photos!
For more inspiring FACES of Louisville, click here!