While less than 13 percent of police officers in America are women,1 that number is bound to rise, thanks to people like Linda Toney and Melissa Fielding. These two Virginia standouts and other women across the country are making their marks in law enforcement, changing a traditionally male profession into a rewarding career path for all genders.
Linda’s story started in 1992, when she graduated from the Henrico County Police Training Academy. After working almost three decades as a patrol officer, public information officer, recruiter, criminal investigator and inspection officer, she made history in May by being the first woman promoted to lieutenant colonel of the Henrico County Police Division. In an interview with WWBT television in Richmond, Linda summed up what her promotion means to other women. “For me, if one young person sees this, and she happens to be female, and she says wow, maybe that’s a job that I can do, then that’s absolutely worth it.”
Melissa is also an inspiration to women with dreams of being in law enforcement. Like Linda’s, her career journey began in 1992, when she joined the University of Virginia (UVA) as a security officer. She was promoted to police officer in 1993, sergeant in 1998, lieutenant in 2007 and captain in 2015. And, like Linda, she made history this spring by becoming UVA’s first woman deputy chief of police.
More and more police departments see the value of hiring women. The National Center for Women & Policing published an entire guide dedicated to helping law enforcement administrators recruit and retain women officers. This Mother’s Day, the Richmond Police Department released a recruiting video showing officers going around the city to recruit women. Clearly, there’s a movement underway and women with Master of Science in Criminal Justice degrees stand to benefit. Just ask Linda and Melissa!
1Gender distribution of full-time law enforcement employees in the United States in 2017, Statista.