Women in blue: Armed and dedicated

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – In a field dominated by men, women police officers stand out when enforcing law and order, partly because there are so few of them.

Multiple studies prove diverse and representative police forces are more effective and beneficial for the communities they serve.

News 2’s Carolyn Murray spent days meeting and riding along with women in law enforcement, who say an increasing number of women officers contribute to greater public safety.

Sergeant Maria Leahy says domestic disturbance calls can be the most dangerous, unpredictable, and heartbreaking.

During a ride-a-long with her through North Charleston neighborhoods, she described changes she has seen as a sworn-in officer of 18 years.

“You can go to a call for service, and someone may prefer a male or female- sometimes someone doesn’t want you because you are Hispanic, or you are African American, or white,” she said. “Those are obstacles we still face, but we are trying to hire diverse groups of people that look like the people we are out here serving.”

She’s an outlier – a woman who comes from a long line of male officers. “My family has 13 police officers that have served. We are like the Latino Reagan’s from that TV show.”

Meanwhile, understanding the lasting effects of crime led Sergeant Arielle Polite to commit to a life of public service.

“When I was little, I had an aunt that was murdered. She was part of the King Street murders. The women that were found on King Street,” she said. “I still remember it like it was yesterday.”

She’s been on the Charleston Police force for 12 years. The last two have been the most difficult.

She recalled working the night protests turned into riots in downtown Charleston last May. “It was heartbreaking, being from Charleston and seeing the destruction,” she said. “That is one of the nights I will always remember. I was called a sell-out, that I should not be doing this job.”

Sgt. Polite went on to say, “You are telling me that I’m a sellout because I’m an African American police officer? Imagine if we had no representation. You think it’s bad now, imagine how it would be if we had no representation.”

“In downtown Charleston, when we speak our voices are elevated and that does not mean we are trying to be aggressive. It’s the nature of how we speak, speaking the language is very essential in this job.”

Officers say it’s an unpredictable profession. “One minute we may be sitting and eating, and the next you jump in your car and try to save someone’s life.”

In the City of Goose Creek, Chief LJ Roscoe made history when she became the first woman police chief for the city.

Despite being the top cop, she is the target of discrimination when on calls with officers who are men.

“It’s ingrained in people that they go to the male officer first,” she said. “We have gone on calls- when I don’t identify myself, oftentimes I have no insignia and if I am with a male officer, they will talk to them before they talk to me …every time.”

Chief Roscoe has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years. Her sight, from the start, was to lead a department.

“I always wanted to be a police chief,” she said. “I didn’t have mentors, I didn’t have that person to go to ask the questions, so, I had to do the research on my own.”

From three different agencies, three policewoman giving different perspectives on why they took an oath to serve.

“Women bring empathy, we bring patience, and we are able to diffuse situations better than our male counterparts.”

Each recognizing the lack of women in policing.

“Look at the numbers from line-level officers, our numbers look better. There are more females, but look at the command level, you’ll still see a huge disparity in numbers between males and females.”

The officers say they are committed to building diverse departments that reflect the communities where they live and serve.”

“I want people to realize we are human.”

“We are out there, we are taking calls, we are involved in foot chases just like our male counterparts. We are leveling the playing field and we are rising.”

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