Assignment garnered respect

Published 11:12 am Monday, July 18, 2011

I’m not sure what I expected.

When I accepted my assignments for the upcoming edition of Front Porch Living, one of them was to interview the police women of the Roanoke-Chowan region. I was looking forward to the task of finding out why many of them took their jobs and what they liked about law enforcement.

What I found out during my interviews of approximately a dozen female law enforcement officers in Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton counties was that they are vastly different.

Some of them went into law enforcement because they always had that goal. Whether it was because of a family member who wore a badge or something they saw on television, they knew early on that law enforcement was for them.

Others almost stumbled onto the profession, be it through security or working as a detention guard.

Whatever their reasons, I found out that they are all workers. They believe in what they do and they take their responsibilities seriously. They intend to protect and serve with the very best in uniform.

The stories they told of how they came into law enforcement and how they go about their daily work lives were compelling. I fear the story will never live up to the actual ladies who told it.

I am impressed that the sheriffs and police chiefs in our region believe a woman can carry a badge and gun just as well as a man. In fact, Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent made it clear he was just as impressed with his female officers as he was with their male counterparts.

My mother did the majority of parenting in our home because of an accident my father suffered when I was very young. Despite being raised in a time when many believed women were inferior, my mother never did.

She (as far as I know) never burned her bra or carried a picket sign. She worked hard at her job and did anything that was asked of her and never accepted anything less than would have been given to a male doing the same task.

My mother taught me to believe in women being the equal of men and to treat them accordingly. My wife continues that education today.

I never doubted that the ladies in law enforcement were just as good as their male counterparts because I have seen many of them in action.

The female School Resource Officers are top notch. They not only keep schools safe, they care deeply about the children within them.

There probably isn’t a smaller woman in uniform than Bertie County’s Naomi Wiggins, but I can promise you if there is a fight, I want her on my side. Ditto for North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Katie Valazquez-Genao.

 In many departments, women have moved into leadership roles. Northampton County’s Brenda Burnette is a Detective Lt. and Lynette Clements is a Detective Sgt. while Ahoskie’s Police Captain is Michelle Garrett.

These women are good at what they do and they are a credit to the uniform which is the biggest compliment anyone can give an officer. I’m glad I live in a place where females are just as likely as males to protect and serve.

Thadd White is a Staff Writer and Sports Editor for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached via email at or by telephone at 332-7211.