Q: Tell me a little bit about your life before Metro, and how you got started down this path?
A: I was raised here in the city. I got involved in public relations, and I knew I liked working with people. I moved over to the District Attorneys office and I became interested in the law enforcement end of things. A friend of mine from high school was a recruiter at the time and we worked in the same building. He came down to see me, he is now Deputy Chief Greg McCurdy. I had some misconceptions about police work at the time and with women getting into the field. I thought the physical requirements were more difficult than they were because I did not take the time to educate myself. I did not reach out to anyone to ask questions, and once he reached out to me and informed me that there were no height or weight requirements and that I was capable of testing for the position, I went all out. I really got myself on a fitness regimen, so I could pass the physical fitness test. It took me about four months to prepare, and I passed it, and here I am.
Before I hired on with Metro, my salary was about $135 a week. The highest salary I reached prior to hiring on with Metro was about $400 every two weeks. That was just really tough. That did not include health insurance, I did not have health insurance for myself or my daughter. I do not think I even had car insurance, because it was a matter of do I pay my babysitter so I can go to work or my car insurance. This job definitely provided me with the opportunity to get out from under that stress of not knowing if I was going to be able to pay my power bill when summer came or buy groceries so we could eat. I definitely do not have those worries anymore.
Q: So you always had an interest in law enforcement but you had fallen into that stereo type that we are currently trying to get away from as far as police officers being that 6'4", male strong police officer?
A: Absolutely, I think that women need to know that you do not necessarily have to be a big burly man. Our communication skills are great and if they have an interest in law enforcement they really need to reach out to us and we will give them the information they need.
Q: You are now a Deputy Chief, the highest ranking female officer on the department and very well respected. I know this is an appointed position. Can you tell what your current job responsibilities are?
A: I still can t believe it some days when I wake and realize where I have gotten to.
Q: Can you tell me, was that a surprise to you? Was it a phone call?
A: I received a phone call from Sheriff Gillespie saying, Congratulations! I am making you a member of my executive staff. I remember it was very early in the morning in December 2006. I was sitting in line at Starbucks on my way to work and I think I almost started crying. You have to be a Captain to even put your interest in for a Chief position, and there were an awful lot of very qualified and capable people that were up for this one spot, so I was very surprised, very proud, and very honored when I received that appointment. My current position right now is Deputy Chief of Human Resources and my job is to oversee the operations of all the hiring, selections, testing, promotional testing, internal testing, recruiting, background process for all of the hiring of personnel of this agency. In another bureau under this division, I have the responsibility for oversight of the police academy, our emergency vehicle operations, our firearms range, and our advanced training. So at the Chief level you are up in the clouds looking down at a whole bunch of things, oversight of budget issues, personnel issues, and making sure that the Sheriff s ideas are being communicated down properly. In addition, I, just like most other Deputy Chiefs, sit on many boards which manage areas such as our health trust, and many community boards.
Q: What do you attribute your success to?
A: An extremely high level of commitment and motivation. Ever since the first day I hired on this agency I have worked very hard to be the best officer and employee of this agency that I could. I don t think there has been a week in my career that I have only put in a 40 hour work week, with the exception of those times I took vacation. From the minute I started I always worked to ensure my shoes were shined to a higher gloss than anyone else s on my squad and that I worked harder and stayed in better shape. I was very competitive, but I was so very grateful to have this job. I hired on as a single mother of a four-year-old and this career has given me so many amazing opportunities and has allowed me to take care of my family on a much higher level than I ever thought possible. It has provided me with education, a good salary, pride in my job, and my children are very proud of me. It has allowed me to set a great example for them. In return for that, my level of commitment was very high. Still to this day I do not expect my employees to work the number of hours I do, but I think that is what has gotten me to this level. I know the Sheriff works more hours than I do and the Undersheriff works more hours than I do, and the Assistant Sheriffs as well. It just takes a very high level of commitment. Can you be successful without this extreme level of commitment? Yes, but it still takes a very high level of commitment to be a successful police officer. The higher up you want to promote the more commitment it takes; the more telephone calls and meetings on the weekends, and being willing to work the assignments that other people don t want to work; being willing to spend the extra hours studying and reading periodicals, going to schools and meetings, and sacrifice of your personal time. I have made this department and community a priority in my life for the past 23 years, and sometimes to the sacrifice of my family as well, but they understand that is what I have had to do to get to his level.
Q: So you were looking at the big picture, tell me a little bit about going through the academy being a single mom with a four-year-old? That had to be extremely challenging. I know the academy itself is very challenging. Sometimes we have people that resign after a couple days that aren t single parents and don t have a four year old at home.
A: Yes, is was tough. I was the only female that graduated from my academy. Almost all the guys had wives who would make their lunches for them, pick up their clothes from the cleaners, and take care of the kids. I did not have that benefit. Luckily, thank goodness, I had a wonderful mother! If I was running late I could drop my daughter off at her house and she would take her to day care, and she always seemed to have a lunch made for me when I needed it. It was tough, a four-year-old demands a lot of your time and I had to be able to spend time with my daughter. I also had to spend the time I needed shining my shoes, cleaning my gun, and studying for tests. It was very difficult. Normally I got up at four in the morning to shine my shoes before I left for the academy. One night I had gotten all my studying done, cleaned my gun, and had shined my shoes that night. I was thinking, ahhh I get to sleep in. I woke up at 5 o clock and came downstairs and my daughter was covered in shoe polish, she had shoe polish all over my shoes and looked up at me and said, mom I shined your shoes so you did not have to. Of course I got a gig that day.
Q: I think most of us have had that day where we are just pushed to the end. Was there ever any thought of wanting to quit, or this is not for me, or I am not tough enough?
A: Well I knew I would never quit. I needed the job and I was determined to succeed. I had a four-year-old at home and she was counting on me to be able to support her, and I did not have another job waiting for me, so quitting was not an option. Were there times I went home and wanted to cry? Yes. I think I called my mom a couple times and said I don t know if I can do this. I t was tough, the fitness standards were really tough. I was not in the shape as I am now because I did not know the importance of doing that throughout my life. It was challenging, the amount of time you had to put into studying and preparing. I did not have a military or law enforcement background, in fact, I had no one in my family who had been in the military or in law enforcement, so I did not know how to shine shoes or press military creases into my uniform. At that time we had to cut our hair short, we could not wear it up. I remember having one of the guys I went to the academy with in the back parking lot cutting my hair so it didn t touch my collar. It looked awful at the time, but I did not care.
Q: In your 23 years, what is your proudest moment?
A: There are countless things I am most proud of as policing is such a prideful career. The looks on the faces of those people whom we help every day, the satisfaction of getting very dangerous people off the street, the many charitable organizations we are involved in are all so rewarding. But, I would have to say my proudest moment was when my son, who is nineteen, told me recently me he wanted to test for LVMPD because he wanted to do what I have done. That had to be my proudest moment, scary, but proud at the same time. The fact that my kids can see what a great career field this is and they are proud of me, and they have decided that they want to go onto the public service field as well. My daughter will be graduating from college this spring as a nurse and now my son has told me that he wants to go into this as well. Two of my other sons are choosing to serve in the military before they make a career commitment. Our oldest is in Baghdad as a military police officer right now and our youngest son has decided to join the military when he graduates from high school this year. That all my children want to serve their community is my proudest accomplishment. In addition to that, watching the development of other employees I have mentored is a source of pride for me. Throughout my career I have reached out to others to help mentor me and they were very willing to help in preparing me for transfer to other areas or promotion, and I would not be here today if it was not for those people. They provided me with knowledge and opportunities, and in exchange I have done the same for other people. One of the things that makes me most proud is to see those people I have mentored become successful themselves.
Q: You have obviously proven that you can go as far as you are willing, why do you think this is a good opportunity for women?
A: I have not had much experience in other fields as far as how women are treated, or whether they are treated as equals. I know in this profession we are given the same exact salary that men are for doing the job. Our salary is based on tenure, not whether you are someone s buddy. It gives you the opportunity to be very independent. I have seen so many women hire onto this agency. I was the fifteenth woman hired, so there were not many when I hired on. Now there are so many women out there working the streets.It is amazing to see the transformation that women go through. There is a level of confidence they gain by being successful through the police academy because it is so challenging. Succeeding in that process gives you this level of pride in yourself and a level of confidence. It just allows you to be such a strong and powerful example for other woman in the community. As a female officer you respond to a domestic violence situation or sexual assault, and you are very empowering and you are setting such a great example for women being this figure of authority. Another thing is the ability to spend time with your family because we do provide paid leave time that a lot of other positions do not provide. If you are working as a service position on the strip your salary is based on tips. When you are on vacation you do not receive those tips. You are missing out on a lot of your salary. We have the ability to move around, not just for women, but for men as well. This is a job where you are not going to do the same thing for 30 years. You have the ability every two years to move around. You can go into whatever is interesting to you, whether it is investigative, administrative, or tactical.
Q: Being a new mother myself, can you tell me how you have managed both so well?
A: It is chaotic at times. When my kids were younger it seemed like I would go to work, run home to take them to soccer, take them to football or wrestling and help them with homework on the way home. My kids learned to be pretty independent, they learned to get their homework done before I got home from work. I am not sure how I did it now that I look back, I was pretty organized. We relied on each other, everybody knew it had to be a partnership. Like I said, I have a great family who provided a lot of assistance. I was a hostage negotiator for 15 years, so there were some nights where I had to bundle up kids and run them up to Grandma s and off I was to a call out. The kids knew that if they woke up in the morning and I was not there they had to get themselves fed and off to school. You know it is tough, but I think it is tough in any job. The good thing about this job is we do have a lot of flexibility, and you do have the sick time available if your kids are sick and you need to stay home with them. Some jobs if you call in sick you do not get paid for that day. My kids knew that every year we took a family vacation and I had the ability to do that because of the paid vacation leave we get, so my kids really looked forward to that.
Q: You have attended our physical fitness preps in the past and we have seen you run circles around those candidates. You have maintained a very high level of fitness and my question to you, why do you think it is important to be physically fit in this career field?
A: Several reasons. First, I have a lot of pride in the badge I was given. I owe a lot to this career and what goes along with that pride is not only keeping your shoes shined and uniform looking good, but maintaining that physical standard so that you look good in your uniform as well. Second, this job is physically challenging and can be stressful. Maintaining a high level of fitness helps to combat the stress.
Q: Do you think being in law enforcement has motivated you to stay in top physical shape, because you have mentioned before when you first got started you were not in as good as shape as you are now?
A: Absolutely. The uniform is one thing, the stress of the job is another. The life expectancy of a police officer is much lower than the rest of the population and that is because of the stress we go through. The best way to eradicate the effects of that is to eat right and exercise, so that is my outlet. Although it is not everyday that an officer might have a physical confrontation with suspects, when it does happen we want to be prepared and have that cardiovascular fitness to stay in that fight until your back-up arrives. It gives you some more confidence as well. So those are my reasons why: to eliminate the stress, the professional appearance, and you want to be able to face a physical situation if it occurs.
Q: What advice would you give to women that are thinking about joining the force?
A: The very first thing I would suggest is to contact a recruiter, especially one of the female recruiters because you have the ability to sit down with them and tell them what the job is about, and what to expect. This career is not going out and getting into fights with criminals every night. The majority of our job is dealing with people and victims, and having communication skills, and having compassion for people. I would suggest reaching out to someone they might know on the police department; talking to them, specifically getting a hold of a recruiter, possibly doing a ride along if they have the ability to do that, so they can get an idea as to whether or not this will be a job they want. What we are looking for in a candidate is someone who really does have that level of commitment, who is ready to stick with it through the tough academy, through the tough field training, and working graveyard and holidays. We do not want people coming on that are not willing to make that commitment. If you are not 21 yet and you are thinking about this, I suggest you enroll in some criminal justice classes from the college. Education is very important.