UCF Law Enforcement Interns Make History as First All-Female Class

 In News, Students

Six new interns entered their internship orientation at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office the week before the fall semester began and realized they have three things in common.

They are all UCF seniors. They are all women. And they are all history makers.

As a part of the Law Enforcement Officer Training Corps internship program with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, these six women became the first all-female internship class since 1999, said associate dean Ross Wolf.

The six students were chosen from an applicant pool of 42 criminal justice students.

Catherine Kaukinen, chair for the Department of Criminal Justice, said that this shows a growing interest among women in a previously male-dominated field.

According to data from the Bureau of Justice, in 1987, 7.6 percent of full-time sworn personnel were women. In 2003, that number had increased to 11.3 percent.

“A lot of careers and majors have been traditionally dominated by males,” she said. “To see a strong group of women who will be colleagues and become a support system for each other, it is exciting.”

It’s also a step to adding diversity to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Recently, the sheriff’s office added a female deputy to the department’s Field Recruiting Team, Deputy First Class Angela Keller, to travel the state and Southeast to recruit qualified applicants, with a focus on women. The sheriff’s office will also host a women’s forum as part of the agency’s upcoming safety fair, with a panel of women holding various ranks available to speak to other women interested in law enforcement.

“We hope that by including women in the hiring process from the very start, they will see that the agency is working hard to break down barriers and show our sincere interest,” said Andrea Undieme, recruiting and background supervisor for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Communications coordinator Drexler B. James spoke with the six interns and asked them the same three questions:

  • What made you major in criminal justice and what made you apply for the internship?
  • How does it feel to be a part of a historical, all-female internship class?
  • Do you have any opinions on the importance of women in the field of criminal justice?

Senior Melissa Mella

1) I’ve seen my entire family go through law enforcement in the city of Miami. So, originally, I decided I wanted to go to school because no one in my family had ever gone to school. I majored in biomedical sciences, but I found out that was not for me. So then I decided to switch over to criminal justice because I was familiar with it. I found out about the internship through my criminal justice fraternity.
2) I didn’t know it was all women until I went to orientation. We all looked around and we were like, ‘This is all of us?’ I felt very empowered to see that out of 42 applicants, they trusted six women in this role.
3) I feel like the diversity is important, especially in Orlando. You always want the law enforcement to represent the community they serve. It’s especially important for me, both as a woman and a Latina, to bring diversity to the city.

Senior Lianne Condon

1) My father is a retired New York police detective. There was a West Point incident where three cadets fell off a cliff at 4 a.m. and it was really cold out. My dad got into a bucket in 30-40 mph winds in pitch-black and helped save the men. He’s my work role model. I had two classes left and I figured this was a great opportunity to learn about the criminal justice system here in Orange County.
2) I felt special because there were 42 applicants. In male dominated fields, we don’t get a chance to showcase what we can do as much or as often. We have to find the chance and this is that chance.
3) I’ve never viewed jobs as male or female. I’ve never had anybody tell me ‘No, you can’t do this.’ So I say just do it. Work hard and do it.

Senior Zoe Knowles

1) Nobody can do everything, but everybody has to do something, so this is my something. I watched many cops on TV and in movies and it really fascinated me. My neighbor was a cop and she made it realistic for me. I didn’t think I was going to get [the internship].
2) It was empowering. My classes are about half and half. I know [when] you enter into the field, it’s more male dominated, but what I’ve been exposed to so far has been balanced. I went on a ride along with a woman … so that I could relate to her and ask her questions.
3) They can bring a completely different perspective to the field. Women have always been underestimated. It shows future generations that they can do this. Gender doesn’t define what you can and cannot do.

Senior Brittaney Webster

1) I grew up in a low-poverty area in inner-city Miami and, us being minorities, we don’t really interact with law enforcement. I wanted to show minority youth that they could have positive interactions with law enforcement. We need more minority women in law enforcement. I saw [that] the internship would put me through all the departments of law enforcement; it wasn’t just police driven. And I wanted to learn as much as I could about everything.
2) I was mind-blown. Law enforcement is a male-driven field, so to have, out of 42 applicants, six women chosen, it was empowering. As we push into the future, it’s going to become half and half in the field.
3) Women are nurturers. Whereas a male would, like in the case of a juvenile, look at them as a bad kid, a woman would see the kid as someone who needs some guidance. If we go back past generations, we didn’t have African-Americans in law enforcement. It’s very important to have that representation.

Senior Brandi Achenbach

1) I didn’t want a job where I would sit down all day; I wanted a job where I could get out and do something in the community. So it came down to either working in a hospital or law enforcement, but working in a hospital still meant sitting down a lot. I want to join the police academy, so this [internship] was a good first step.
2) I was curious when I first got there and saw all women. I thought, ‘Did they separate the men and the women?’ Then Dr. Wolf came in and he seemed surprised too. And when I found out we were chosen out of like 50 applicants, I was like ‘Woah.’
3) It’s good for women to get into the police department because it shows that women can do the same jobs as men. People don’t really see women out there in these types of roles. You see male cops, but not a lot of women cops in that capacity.

Senior Kara Baez

1) For some reason, I’ve always loved the criminal justice aspect of things. And I figured that I could always go to law school later. I’m so full of life and energy right now, I couldn’t see myself sitting behind a desk. Last summer, I interned with the U.S. Marshals and that’s what made me fall in love with [the idea of] becoming a federal marshal. I saw this internship opportunity come up and, talking to the other marshals, they encouraged me to go for it. This internship would help me discover if I really wanted to go into law enforcement.
2) I felt blessed. It was so empowering in that moment looking around at all the other woman, it felt surreal, I thought, ‘Wow, we are really doing this.’ Law enforcement is a mostly male-dominated field. We are definitely creating history here.
3) I always felt like I was destined to make a difference in this world. I wish that more women would go for it, because we bring something different to the table that men don’t. Women are just so different from men, so if your tactic does not work, let me try. When you see law enforcement that are different … I think the world needs to see that change, because we all come from different walks of life and it’s important to show that unity [in law enforcement] too.

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