Breaking down stereotypes of the South | New

Sometimes when Alcoa Police Lieutenant Nicole Somers approaches someone to take a statement, they refuse to speak to them because it is a woman. Other times, being a woman helps victimized women to tell her about what happened without fear.

The same type of ideally contrasting events occur with Sgts. Alexis Rodriguez and Israel Hernandez – sometimes – when they collect information for a report. Rodriguez and Hernandez said some Hispanics feel betrayed and others feel more secure, connected.

The Alcoa Police Department, where all three work, has for the first time in the service’s history gender and racial diversity in its leadership positions.

They are “living history,” as Chief David Carswell put it, delighted that ODA is progressing beyond what Somers has called a generational attitude.

“There is a clear need for women; there is a clear need for minorities (groups) to get into that, ”Carswell said. “We need to reflect the community we serve. “

Carswell and Somers explained that their department is constantly hiring. As Somers said, it’s a “wheel that keeps turning. We hire some and then we turn around and start over.

Trying to break down the barrier that prevents women and minority groups from pursuing careers in law enforcement is one of the goals of the professional ODA approach.

Female law, duty officer One of Somers’ daughters said that when her friends came to her when she was young, they saw police clothes and always asked if her father was a cop.

“And I’m like ‘no, actually that’s my mom,’” Somer Gray said. “It just didn’t make sense in their head.”

Having a mother in a male-dominated field, Gray said, has helped her overcome gender roles and stereotypes as defined by a “man’s world.” Her mother fought crime in the community and made costumes, like a box of tissues or a grocery bag, for her and her sister for Halloween.

“I really appreciate her being that role model for me,” Gray said, “because I don’t know a lot of people who have mothers who have been in law enforcement.”

While it also had its downsides, she said, like her mother’s harshness towards her and sister after seeing crime and bad situations with her own eyes and not wanting her daughters to experience it. on the dark side of life. Gray said she was also afraid for her mother’s safety.

The Evening Patrol as a newly promoted sergeant in 2015, Somers said, was “the fastest, most volatile and craziest shift you can work.” She added that this was her ordeal and if she got through it she knew she would be able to be successful in her career.

Somers worked in the DPA for 17 years and was promoted to Patrol Officer, Field Training Officer, Field Training Supervisor, Patrol and Training Sergeant, and then Instructor general of the department. Now she is the support services lieutenant.

“I really found out that I enjoyed training,” Somers said. “I loved seeing new people come in with no experience and turn them into great officers.”

Having tough skin is part of the job, she says. Not only because of the way his coworkers tease and talk to each other, but also because of the situations they have seen day to day.

In addition, she said, tough decisions have to be made on the ground. As a sergeant, that also meant taking responsibility for decisions made by his team.

“If you’re not wondering if you’re making the right decision,” Somers said, “then you’re probably not where you should be.”

Promote the color font

The police have recently been criticized by protesters. Carswell said nationally the past few years have been the toughest time in the country’s history to motivate people to join law enforcement.

Hernandez and Rodriguez joined the police force with no history of law enforcement in their family trees.

Rodriguez said she was inspired in college by the story of a female sergeant in Austin, Texas, where she grew up.

“I felt like it would be a way for me to give back and somehow change the perspective of law enforcement,” Rodriguez said. “And how minorities view law enforcement.”

She said she and other members of minority groups in law enforcement are struggling with the current societal climate – the negative outlook surrounding law enforcement in the United States – and what people of color have grew up believing about law enforcement.

“These are generations of minorities who look negatively at law enforcement and don’t see them as a helping hand,” Rodriguez said.

When Hernandez left Indiana, he said he believed the southeastern region of the United States would struggle more with racial and ethical issues. Although it was different when he first arrived in Blount County, he said.

“There is no opportunity that was denied to me or that I didn’t feel I could achieve in the town of Alcoa,” Hernandez said.

“It’s hard when society or the media, you know, describes (law enforcement) in a certain way,” Hernandez said. “But the only way we’re going to change that is, you know, one step at a time and (minority groups) feel comfortable around the police.”

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