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Special Report: Women behind the badge - 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas

Special Report: Women behind the badge

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According to womenandpolicing.org, the first female police officer ever hired on a police force was back in 1905 in Portland, Oregon.

Since then, the number of women police officers has slowly grown around the country. Numbers got a boost in 1972 when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was expanded to include public agencies, including police departments. 12 News HD talked to two female police officers; one who has been on the force for 20 years and one who is a rookie, on the job for one year; six months with a field training officer and six months on patrol. And both say even though being a police officer may still be a man's world, they love their jobs and can do them just as well as a man and in some cases, maybe better! Even though she grew up watching and loving shows like Charlie's Angels, Officer Carol Riley, says she never envisioned herself being a crime fighter, but she was working as a corrections officer and she tells 12 News HD, "I started working with their narcotics unit and they'd have me go out on drug busts and do some undercover things and I was hooked."

When Officer Riley joined the force she was one of 20 women of 240 officers and although she is in a man's world, she tells 12 News HD there are skills a woman has that can make her just as effective at the job, if not more effective than her male counterparts. She said, "We don't always have the same upper body strength and skill and agility abilities that a man does so we always have that in the back of our mind that we have to use other tools and verbal judo is what we call it. We go into a situation and we do our best to deescalate it."

And most days you never know what you will face. Officer Riley said, "You know it's really sad to deal with all the destruction and the hurt and the things that you see that a person causes when they get involved in the criminal element. Because you deal with the deep things that most people never want to have to deal with."

Yutonia Kelley is a rookie with Beaumont PD and even though she is on the force 20 years after Officer Riley began, today there are still only 27 women of 251 total officers. She told 12 News HD she appreciates the women who came before her, "It makes me know that I can do it. I don't second guess it."

Officer Kelley did not grow up thinking she wanted to be a police officer, but with her husband's and her family's support, she loves her job. She said, "That's what made me take the next step and he's 100% for it. He supports me in everything I do. He's there every step of the way and he constantly reminds me, he's there if I need him."

And Officer Kelley makes sure she is there for him, by being conscious of officer safety every time she hits the streets. She told 12 News HD, "You always want to get yourself in a winning position. I keep that in mind how many other officers are around my location before I react to something whether it's a major or a minor."

For police officers male or female, nothing is ever really minor and you must always prepare for the unknown. She said, "You don't know, you may think it's a routine until you walk up on that window and that person in that traffic stop pulls a gun, or you walk up to a call and before you even make contact with somebody. You get something being thrown at you or you get shots fired so to say something is routine and not on our job would be wrong."

What is right with being her position is the work family Officer Kelley has on the job. Of her male counterparts she said, "It's being handled a little differently as far as them looking at you as a little sister or something, always waiting to come to your calls, depending on the nature of it, check on you and see if everything is okay."

Out of 15 officers that were hired when Officer Kelley was hired, only two were females. She said, "Yea everybody would like to call this a man's world but women can handle the job as well as a man can."

Or maybe even better in some situations, according to womenandpolicing.org, women police officers are far less likely to be involved in police brutality cases.

Officer Kelley says, "I love the job. I love every time I come to work, I'm excited. It's never the same day twice." and she believes every woman can feel the way she feels about her job and be whatever they want to be, if they prepare.

She said, "If you want to be a law enforcement officer, if you want to be a doctor, whether or not you want to be president, I believe you can do it."

Right now Officer Kelley is a patrol officer, but she wants to be a detective some day. Officer Riley also started as a patrol officer and now she is one of the public information officers for Beaumont PD.

A woman by the name of Faye Ford, now Faye Woodsmall, was the first female police officer hired on the Beaumont Police Department back in 1976. When she retired, she was a sergeant.

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