YORK, Maine — The training room at the York Police Station was taken over last week by female police officers, state police and game wardens in a federal program that trains female leaders in law enforcement.
Tracy Hite, a retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent, led the training, called Leadership for Women in Law Enforcement for female leaders and aspiring leaders in law enforcement. It is a five-day program sponsored by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Hite said the training is for any woman in law enforcement from new officers to those with 30 years experience. “Leadership begins at the beginning of your career,” Hite said. She said leadership is not part of regular police training, and her course is also a great networking opportunity, because there are few women in law enforcement to share experiences and provide help and support.
York Detective Jamie Robie attended the program, along with York Patrolwoman Meghan Pierce. Robie said the participants, police officers from all over New England and Pennsylvania, at first, fell into normal postures, sat quietly and were reserved and controlled. “Cops don’t open up,” Robie said. But the course brought the women together, and they found so much in common, she said.
They found that with a combined 248 years of service by the participants, only 45 of those years were in supervisory positions.
“Cops don’t want the spotlight,” Robie said. “We recognize a lot of work has to be done.”
Hite called the program complicated, including exercises in reflection. She hopes students will put in practice tools learned during the week.
The last session, Friday afternoon, was a panel discussion with three chiefs of police, so that participants could ask their advice about anything. Portsmouth police Chief Robert Merner, Westbrook police Chief Janine Roberts and Freeport police Chief Susan Nourse sat in a circle with the women officers.
York police Chief Charles J. Szeniawsk, appointed Aug. 12, applied for the program while he was still assistant chief and training officer for the department. “FLETC scheduled a nationwide competition with different parts of the country. We got final notification in November, 2018.” He said there is no cost to the law enforcement agencies.
The officers came from York, Sabattus, Windham, Auburn, Portland, Lisbon, Spencer, Massachusetts, Schenectady, New York, the Pennsylvania State Police, the York County Sheriff’s Office and the Maine Warden Service.
Robie said the participants have created their own networking, including a computer application. “We can call anyone without judgment,” she said.