She built a reputation as a caring beat cop, a dedicated officer who won over a sometimes skeptical Mount Pleasant community. When she retired, there were accolades and dinners and prolonged goodbyes.
Then, one day in December, former D.C. police officer Bonnie Nora O'Neal, 47, heard she was to receive a humanitarian award from the United Nations Association's capital area division.
Cited for her "outstanding performance" and "outstanding personal courage," O'Neal received the award during the association's annual human rights day. Nominated by the Mount Pleasant Advisory Neighborhood Commission, O'Neal was one of 39 people honored by the association, which has about 1,000 members in the area.
"I can't stop the tears from coming because this just shows the love of the community," O'Neal said last week. "It makes it all worthwhile, all the effort."
The former officer, who retired in October, has been a finalist for several police management positions at smaller departments, but has not yet found a job. Several departments are expressing an interest, she said.
"I'd like to continue to pursue something in my profession because I think I have the background to contribute something," she said.
O'Neal's community policing experiment in Mount Pleasant was widely hailed by local business and neighborhood groups. In just over a year, her patrols rid a corner of drug dealers, reduced overall crime and encouraged residents to be more vigilant. The number of neighborhood watch groups increased from 12 to 42, many formed at her urging.