Walking on Broken Glass

Women around the world are crashing through the so-called glass ceiling of law enforcement. But in many countries these trail-blazing—and amazing—women are still walking carefully on broken glass.

This comes as no surprise to any woman who has achieved a leadership position in any male-dominated profession. She is still looked upon as an invader—or, at best, a visitor.

Women police commanders especially may feel isolated—excluded from the camaraderie and informal networking that occurs among men commanders—and even excluded from the networking that might occur between women in other supervisory and staff positions. 

History in the making

During the American Presidential Primaries, Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, indicated in a television interview that gender issues are still part of the package of success.

Her sly smile and the gleam in her eyes said much more than her carefully chosen words. Pelosi made history in 2007, when she broke through the marble ceiling of Congress to become the highest-ranking elected woman in American history - second in the line of presidential succession.

Like Pelosi, women in law enforcement fight ongoing battles on the road to achieving their goals. 

Ongoing battles

Complicating the situation are three important factors:

  • There still appears to be a perception among some younger women that to be mentored by a woman is not as important as being mentored by a man (albeit, this is slowly changing).
  • Public and professional misperceptions persist that women are bitchy or castrating.
  • Women who have achieved leading positions in any profession are still considered tokens—promoted only to counter cries for diversity in the Board Room.

In law enforcement, women’s struggle for admission and recognition was not won overnight. Overall acceptance of women as political, business or law enforcement leaders is still the exception rather than commonplace.

We are still working on "firsts" and in some cases seconds. We’ll know we’ve really made it when there are no headlines the next time a woman becomes a chief of police, president of a major corporation, or is elected to a board of directors.

Thanks to the “firsts” in law enforcement, it can and does happen—but only because of the growing number of trailblazers, who still walk on the broken glass of the ceilings they shattered.

Role models

When I wrote “Top Cops: Profiles of Women in Command,” it was my honor to give international recognition to an outstanding group of 13 women who distinguished themselves in the law enforcement community.

Each woman I profiled stands as a role model for all of us who strive for professional success and recognition of our achievements. Most of them have moved on from their 1999 positions to equally successful endeavors, professionally and personally.

I’ll briefly introduce them to you here. You can read their full stories in “Top Cops: Profiles of Women in Command,” available through the amazingwomenrock.com bookstore and at Brittany Publications, Ltd.

Robin H. Benziger

Captain, New York State Police (Albany, New York). Following a series of achievements, Robin was promotion to the rank of Major in May 2008, and appointed Director of Training at the New York State Police Academy.

Fabienne L. Brooks

Major, King County Sheriffs Office (Seattle, Washington) Fae was later promoted from Major to Division Chief and headed the Criminal Investigation Division of the King County Sheriff’s Department in Seattle. She is currently retired and very active in her community.

Debora Lynn Byers

Bureau Commander, City of Phoenix Police Department (Phoenix, Arizona). Debora was accepted into the executive development program at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard, and later went on to be named an Assistant Chief for the City of Phoenix Police Department. She currently serves her community as Assistance Chief of Police in Glendale, Arizona.

Margo Frasier

Sheriff, Travis County (Austin, Texas) and Advisory Board Member, National Center for Women & Policing. Margo was Travis County, Texas' first female and first openly-gay Sheriff, serving two four-year terms until she stepped down in 2005. She is currently a professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University.

Beverly Joy Hall

Lieutenant, St. Paul Police Department (Minnesota). Several years after publication of "Top Cops," Bev was promoted to Commander. She was in charge of St. Paul's downtown patrol unit, and supervised the investigative unit of the Central [St. Paul] District. Bev retired from the St. Paul Police Department at the end of 2007, after 28 years of service.

Penny Harrington

Director Emeritus and founder of the National Center for Women & Policing in Los Angeles, and a consultant to public and private agencies on women in the workplace. In 1985, Penny became the first woman in America to attain the rank of Chief of a major metropolitan police force. Penny’s career as a trailblazer in law enforcement is chronicled in her autobiography “Triumph of Spirit,” available through the amazingwomenrock.com bookstore and at Brittany Publications, Ltd.

Lynn L. Jones

Major, City of Tulsa Police Department (Oklahoma) and Regional Representative, National Center for Women & Policing. Lynn retired from the force in 2002, but has stayed very active in the Tulsa Community. She belongs to a non-profit that purchased a franchise that provides education, and jobs with a livable wage, to women leaving the Tulsa prison system.

Betty P. Kelepecz

Assistant Commander of Operations, Los Angeles Police Department (California) and Past President, National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives. After publication of “Top Cops,” Betty moved on to be named Chief of the San Diego Harbor Police, and she earned the 2004 "Woman Law Enforcement Executive of the Year" Award sponsored by The National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE) and Motorola. She retired from law enforcement after 25 years of public service.

In October 2007, Betty, a former microbiologist and an attorney, joined Crime Scene Technologies, LLC (CST), an independent forensic DNA laboratory serving the justice system, as Lab Director. She was elected to the Board of Directors of the Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Institute where she sits on the Executive, Finance and Intergovernmental Relations Committees, and also sits on the Homeland Security and CJIS Committees of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).

Teresa M. Kettelkamp

Colonel and Deputy Director, Division of Forensic Services, Illinois State Police (Springfield, Illinois). Teresa was the first female to attain the rank of Colonel in the Illinois State Police (ISP). Teresa retired in 2003 after 29 years on the force to work for the Gavin Group in conducting the first annual compliance audits of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. She currently is executive director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Office of Child and Youth Protection.

Laura Lightner

Lieutenant and Chief of Police Services for Carefree and Cave Creek, Maricopa County Sheriffs Office (Phoenix, Arizona). Laura more recently served as the division Commander for the Advanced Officer Training Unit within the Sheriff’s Office.

Judy Manning

Lieutenant, Glendale Police Department (Glendale, Arizona) and Regional Representative, National Center for Women & Policing.

Jadel Roe

Chief Deputy and Chief Operation Officer, Maricopa County Sheriffs Office (Phoenix, Arizona).

Noreen Walker

District Commander, Chicago Police Department (Chicago, Illinois). Following publication of “Top Cops,” Noreen was the subject of a three-page feature in The Chicago Sun-Times. Noreen was later named Deputy Chief of the Chicago Police Department. She was also named the year 2000 Woman of Distinction by Soroptimist International of Chicago and was nominated to Today’s Chicago Woman’s list of 100 Women Making a Difference.

Putting something back

All of the women I interviewed for “Top Cops” maintained strong partnerships with their communities through volunteer activities. From serving on boards, to helping the disadvantaged directly, these women continue to make a difference and serve as role models for young women in their communities.

The image they created continues to have an impact on recruitment, retention, and establishing women officers as role models. They truly were and still are AMAZING!

Copyright ©2008 Marion E. Gold. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission for use only for online view on www.amazingwomenrock.com. No other use permitted without the written and express permission of Marion E. Gold.

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