Women share their story in regards to gender in law enforcement

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Photo by Maricel Evangelista

A panel of female law enforcement officers discussed their journey, and how it was influenced because of their gender in the Science Building lecture hall Oct 5.

Over the last 20 years Erica Smith, Sandy Police K9 unit Officer, has seen the culture in law enforcement change greatly. As women entered into the workforce more and more, the male prejudices of women improved.

“There was no place for women in law enforcement and there was a lot a bias back then. But I feel like that has all been overcome,” Smith said.

These officers agree that those biases have faded over time. Dayanira Navarrete, Springville City Police Officer and former UVU student, doesn’t feel she has ever been treated differently for being a woman in her field. The expectations and qualifications are the same, male or female. Navarrete showed her appreciation for the law enforcement community and the teamship that is displayed.

While Robyn Newell, Provo City Police Officer, agreed with Navarrete that women aren’t  typically treated differently within the units, she expressed most of the stereotyping or resistance comes from the community.

“It comes from people outside of my police family,” Newell said. “They figure out what you do, and the next thing you know, no one wants to talk to you. They don’t know how to talk to you.”

Newell is a mother of seven children and at times she finds it hard to juggle her career and her family, but doesn’t attribute that to her specific profession.

“People say to me, but you’re a mom, you can’t be doing this,” Newell said. “To put that bias on someone and say, you’re a mom, you have this stigma that says you have to stay home. I love my kids, but I can’t spend every minute with them.”

Ashley Burningham, Sandy Police K9 unit Officer, and former UVU student, has been involved with law enforcement from a young age. Going on ride alongs with officers is what really sparked her interest in pursuing this profession.

“The job is really fun.,” Burningham said. “There is some negativity, a lot of people don’t like us and don’t support us. But there are also a lot of people that do.”

There are many rewards and hardships with this career, the women expressed. However they agree with Janet Miller, Highway patrol officer, that it is worth it in the end.

“There are things that I do as a female that sometimes benefits a situation, where a male maybe wouldn’t have the same results.,” Burningham said.