While Kim Selkirk was working as a bank teller, she met a customer who changed her outlook on her career. The customer was a petite woman who Selkirk was surprised to learn was a police officer."If she can do it, so can I," Selkirk thought, so she began taking college criminal justice classes. Now, several years later, she has nearly seven years of experience as a Charles County Sheriff's officer.
Sometimes, all it takes for a woman to become a law enforcement officer is to meet another woman who already is.
That is why the Charles County Sheriff's Office is holding an information session for women who are interested in a law enforcement profession, including as a Deputy Sheriff, correctional officer and civilian employee. "Meet the Women of the Charles County Sheriff's Office" will be held Sept. 14 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Waldorf Jaycees Community Center at 3090 Crain Highway in Waldorf.
"I hadn't seen many female police officers before and the ones I had seen had always been larger than me," said Det. Selkirk. After taking criminal justice classes at the community college, she transferred to a university, where she heard about a position at the Charles County Sheriff's Office for a police communications officer.
"I decided to apply thinking I would be able to find out more about police work and I would be able to decide if I really could do it or not," Det. Selkirk said. "After a short time in Communications and numerous ride-alongs with police officers, I decided I could do it."
After she applied to be a Deputy Sheriff, she was accepted into the Southern Maryland Criminal Justice Academy where she trained with a class of more than 30 recruits that included only one other female. Although she was apprehensive about not having a military background like many of the other recruits, she completed all the physical, academic and skills training and graduated from the Academy. Seven years later, she's still happy about her decision to enter this career.
"I enjoy a lot about police work, but most of all I like when I can solve a problem for someone or make someone feel safe," Det. Selkirk said.
Det. Selkirk began her police career in police communications, while others begin as a correctional officer. That's how Sgt. Jody Powell began her first two years of her law enforcement career.
Sgt. Powell was a victim of crime herself in another county and didn't feel the officers who were supposed to help her handled the incident properly. She knew she could do a better job herself. This fall will mark a decade of police service for Sgt. Powell who, after serving as a narcotics officer, now supervises her own squad of patrol officers. She likes her job, she says, because, "it's something different each day."
While some people begin their careers as correctional officers, many others like Lt. Susie Rice make corrections their life-long career. Lt. Rice has been in corrections for 24 years and has spent the last 10 years as a lieutenant.
"I decided to take this job for a pay increase," she said. "My plan was to go on the road but after a year in corrections, I decided to make this career. Most of my friends thought I was nuts to go work at a jail, but now several of them wish they had."
As a veteran officer, Lt. Rice has seen more women enter the corrections profession, including Stacy Reynolds, who has been a correctional officer since December of 2000.
"The Academy was an experience I'll never forget," said Officer Reynolds. "It was very intimidating at first but I pulled through and did a pretty good job."
For women interested in law enforcement but are not considering a career in police or corrections, there are civilian positions available as well, including employment as a station clerk or police communications officer.
Station clerks receive most of the non-emergency calls for service from citizens. They relay the information they obtain to police communications officers, who then determine its priority and dispatch it accordingly to patrol officers.
"I love my job because I feel Patrol Communications Officers (PCO) are part of the solution with regards to law enforcement," said Patrol Communications Supervisor Antonella Volpe. "We work hand-in-hand with the officers by the research we do in the background. You will often hear a PCO tell officers, prior to arriving to a scene, that the history of a certain address may include domestics, weapons, psychiatric issues, etc. These tools and methods are not readily available to the officers on the street, therefore, PCOs are detectives in their own right. There is a great deal of satisfaction knowing that your efforts and diligence got a suspect off the street."
Some women want to pursue a career in law enforcement, but they fear family obligations will prohibit them from joining this profession. Many of the women of the Sheriff's Office, including Det. Patricia Garino, say it's difficult, but it's not impossible.
Det. Garino is assigned to investigate child abuse but has also worked in patrol and the domestic violence unit. Her husband, David, is a corporal who has spent his entire 13-year career with the Sheriff's Office in patrol operations. Together, they have two sons, one who's a year old and the other who is three.
"It's very hard to have such young children and work around daycare schedules with David and I both being police officers," she said. "I think it is great FMLA allows parents to stay home with their newborns and the Sheriff's Office was supportive of it as well."
The Sheriff's Office offers a wealth of opportunities for women interested in a profession with the Charles County Sheriff's Office, whether they want to be police officers, correctional officers or serve in a civilian capacity.
"Meet the Women of the Charles County Sheriff's Office" will offer women in the community the opportunity to learn about law enforcement with other women and from women who have careers with the Sheriff's Office. Participants will be able to talk to female employees, take part in a question-and-answer session, learn about the application process and try the trigger pull, which is part of the agility test police and corrections applicants must pass.
For more information about the fair, contact Lt. J. J. Fenlon at 301-609-3918.