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WRTV honors IMPD Women Behind the Badge

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Posted at 8:40 PM, Mar 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-19 20:41:48-04

INDIANAPOLIS — It takes bravery commitment and discipline to serve the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

What's equally as important for these four women of all ranks is compassion.

"People forget how big empathy is in this job. Meeting them where they are. I always say that we meet people and probably the worst parts of their day, the most traumatizing parts of their day, when this is just maybe an hour of our day. So really, just taking the time to realize, okay, this person needs this in this moment. They need kindness, they need compassion, they need gentleness," said Ofc. Jaylin Harris.

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From left to right is Deputy Chief Valerie Cunningham, Commander Ida Williams, patrol officer Jaylin Harris and community resource officer, Madeline Green.

Those are traits that Deputy Chief Valerie Cunningham, Commander Ida Williams, patrol officer Jaylin Harris and community resource officer, Madeline Green say women bring to the table.

"It's very much needed. Because although the men do a great job, women do bring about a different aspect. I'm a mom of four boys. so I have that experience. I'm tough but I also have compassion," said Ofc. Green "And so, I believe that that's what makes our department much better when we do have more women, who have the different experiences in life and can empathize with the community."

"We need females in executive ranks and command ranks, because then you have some of the ability to be in on policy making decisions. So, it's so very important to get that feedback when you see female officers to find out are we doing things OK. That's a big part of my day. I try to make this the most positive work environment for the men and women that work on IMPD," said Deputy Chief of the Administration Division, Valerie Cunningham.

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"It's just been great to kind of be that person in the community that little girls can look up to. It's always so fun to me when little girls run up to me and they're like smiling and talking and just like, hi, my name is such and such. I just know, it's because they like see a woman that they could look up to, so I love that," said Ofc. Harris.

"It makes me feel great. It makes me feel like, again, we're doing exactly what we're supposed to be doing. We're in this male dominated field over here dominating this this police department," said Commander Williams.

Commander Williams plays a vital role in IMPD's initiative to have women make up 30% of the force by 2030.

In 2016, she helped create "Women Behind the Badge. It's a workshop aimed at recruiting and modern day policing.

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The department says it's made strides to diversify and promote women.

"I like that I represent the Spanish speaking community, and that I'm able to engage with them. Obviously, it's a different culture. And so we do things differently compared to most folks. So they are very excited when I do arrive on scene, and they know that she'll understand and I do understand. I grew up in a Puerto Rican household," said Ofc. Green.

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"It's absolutely amazing. So in my career, I never thought as a peer to peer level, I would be working with other appointed women. And my boss now is a female, who was also an executive officer of mine as she came up through the ranks. So, Chief Bailey with his 30% females in the command staff is absolutely amazing and something that I never thought I would see in my career. I know someone else mentioned, they never thought they would see a female police chief here. I think now we all have the optimism that it's just a matter of time," said Deputy Chief Cunningham.

It's encouraging for younger officers.

Jaylin Harris joined the department 3 years ago. Her cousin who is also a member of IMPD inspired her.

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"What does your badge mean to you," asked WRTV's Rachael Wilkerson.

"It means that I took a different path that wasn't offered to me originally, because I was a girl. Growing up, you didn't see women in policing, the most I saw was Charlie's Angels. I think it's like creating this new narrative that women can be all things," said Ofc. Harris.

"Well, it started very early with me, I come from a military family. My dad was a World War II vet. All three of my brothers served active service in the Korean War, and then Vietnam. I'm the youngest of my family.I have three brothers, no sisters, the one thing that my parents forbid was for me to go into the military. My mom had had enough waiting for and crossing her fingers that people came home from active combat. So, I didn't go in the military, but they didn't specify that I couldn't go into uniform service in law enforcement. So my journey took me in from Chicago, not from this community. I chose this community. I went to Purdue University. I Always wanted to be a law enforcement officer chose Indianapolis as a community that I just absolutely fell in love with," said Deputy Chief Cunningham.

"How did you get here," asked WRTV's Rachael Wilkerson.

"I'm still asking myself, honestly. I just completed 34 years in October, but it wasn't my plan. It wasn't my plan to become a police officer. My goal was to go to law school but then the opportunity came, and I could not imagine doing anything else," said Commander Williams.

While they're proud to wear the badge, behind it are woman who also enjoy their time away from the chaos.

"We're police officers, but we're also moms, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, wives," said Ofc. Harris.

"I've been doing this for 32 years. I have friends that are both law enforcement officers, I have friends that are not. I think that's very important. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I like to golf. Golf has brought in, to me those friendships with people that are not necessarily in law enforcement and it's a time to completely escape, right? So when when I take this uniform off, and I go home, I try to have some what I call absolute quiet hours that have nothing to do with law enforcement, I watch silly videos. You know, I love the animal Tiktoks where the animals do cute little things, just something that I did not thinking about law enforcement, just to completely shut off that switch," said Deputy Chief Cunningham.

For those interested and curious about joining IMPD, the Women Behind the Badge workshop is this Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

It's at 901 North Post Rd.

You'll have a chance to ask questions and see a mock physical fitness test.

"We will have all the circuits that's going to consist of our hiring process so they can see what a push up actually looks like and what it feels like. I set up the vertical jump, they can go out hopefully weather permitting out there on the track because running on the inside of a treadmill is one thing, but getting out there on the track is another and so they will have an opportunity not just to talk to us, but also to get the information about our hiring process and experience what a PFT is gonna look like on test day," said Commander Williams.

"That's probably one of my favorite events that we do. I went before I came on to the department. It's such a great time and it's so encouraging even as a police officer," said Harris.

"I just tell them that they can do this job. I tell them that. The things that they think that they can't do that they can I encourage them to be the best versions of themselves. Don't try to come on this job and be anybody else. Just do you. And again, our we have the best training in the country. And I know that as long as you trust us, and do your part, we'll get you where you need to be," said Commander Williams.

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If you're interested in this profession at all, or even if you don't even think you're interested, please come hear what we have to say. I think it would make you excited and perhaps change your mind about a career in law enforcement. If you have a servant's heart, and you truly want to help your community and help people, this could be the profession for you. And I think that you should come out and hear what we have to say. The wonderful thing about women behind the badge is for females, it takes down all the barriers, there's no question You can't ask in that environment. I mean, no question. It's a open environment, you'll have women of all different ranks on this agency.

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