MPD Makes Local History With All Female Shift

Photo courtesy Manteno Police Department.

Photo courtesy Manteno Police Department.

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By Eric Peterson

The Manteno Police Department unintentionally decided to get ahead in celebrating Women’s History Month, celebrated in March, by creating some female-driven history of their own. MPD had their first shift run completely by female police officers on Saturday, February 19.

The shift was staffed by Officers Miranda Sinadinos, Jessica Rourke, and Karen Brandt, which was a variation from the historically male-dominated field.

Manteno Chief of Police Al Swinford welcomed the diversity, and said, “When you only have one segment of your population providing a service, you have a very narrow world view.”

According to Swinford, the population of Manteno is 50 percent female and, since the perspectives of a police department are heavily influenced by their respective communities, a police department should reflect the diversity of the community it serves to provide better service.

Chief Swinford said he hopes more of the population will be encouraged to become police officers when they see themselves well represented in the department. He noted the first female police officer in Manteno was hired five years ago, and then more female applicants became interested in the department.

“It’s a momentum thing, and we are working hard towards that,” Swinford said.

Officer Rourke has been a police officer for approximately six years, five of which have been in Manteno. When questioned about her decision to become a police officer, Rourke said she largely was influenced by her father, a police officer of almost 30 years, who currently still is serving.

“He always said, ‘This is something you can do,'” Rourke said of her father, “So I have always felt like this was something I could do and make a difference doing.”

Rourke stated female police officers offer a different perspective regarding victim-sensitive issues, and some people feel more comfortable talking to a woman. She noted that while the importance of male police officers has not changed, female officers might have a different communication style.

When questioned about the support system she has within the Manteno Police Department, Rourke laughed and said she recently had texted a fellow Manteno Police Officer to ask if they were annoyed, due to the publicity of having an all-female police shift.

She said her fellow officer assured her it was great to see her and the other female officers receiving positive attention, and it didn’t bother him one bit.

“It’s awesome to hear,” Rourke said, also remarking that Chief Swinford is one of the biggest reasons why an all-female police shift was possible in the first place.

Officer Sinadinos has been with the Manteno Police Department for less than a year and came from a probation officer background. When questioned, Sinadinos said she always wanted to help people and, while she was able to accomplish that as a probation officer, she enjoys being involved with the initial on-scene situations more.

“I think female police officers can deescalate a situation differently,” Sinadinos said, while recalling situations where a crime victim specifically requested to talk to a female police officer, based on the nature of the crime.

Sinadinos said she graduated from the police academy as one-of-three females in a class of 32, and noted she was treated no differently than her male counterparts, which she appreciated. She remarked that being a female in a male-dominated field has not affected her at all.

To other women interested in pursuing a career in any male-dominated field, much less her police department, Sinadinos said, “If you want to do it, go for it. You shouldn’t be intimidated.”

Officer Brandt is one of the department’s newer female officers, having been hired in August, but she worked in corrections for seven years prior to coming to MPD. She also previously served in the National Guard.

In regard to working in a male-dominated field, Brandt stated her time in the military and corrections had made her familiar with the environment, but echoed the statements from the other officers that Chief Swinford, along with the rest of the Manteno Police Department, have made her feel welcome.

Brandt said, ever since she was a child, she always had a strong passion for the understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Along with helping others, she speculated it was largely a part of her core personality.

In regard to their historic day, Brandt noted that while it was incredibly nice, it was still “just another day.” She commented that her colleagues are the type of officers who are willing to put their lives on the line for one another, which creates a bond, regardless of gender.

“It’s not necessarily bad or good, but it’s just something I never expected to see in this field,” Brandt said of her shift with Sinadinos and Rourke. 

Brandt said the support from the Manteno community has been nothing short of amazing, and plenty of people have flagged her down simply to express their appreciation and admiration. 

Chief Swinford acknowledged the ever-changing expectations of the communities police departments serve, and said,  “The community has high expectations of the police. We should be held to a high standard. I am the most critical person I know.”

He noted that while there are certain areas where police departments are making progress, there are other areas into which departments need to be pushed. Swinford said law enforcement is in a “constant state of reform” and always has been, recalling how laws have changed in regard to pursuits, among other things.


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