What made you want to get into a career in Law Enforcement?
I was always interested in Law Enforcement but I was leaning more toward the juvenile probation area. I earned my Bachelors degree in Social Justice. I started working for a law enforcement agency in an administrative position and part of the job requirements was to ride with an officer. I really liked the ride-along and I realized I could do the job of an officer and it paid twice as much as the job I was doing.
What concerns did your family and friends have with you becoming a police officer and did their concerns change after successful completion of your training?
My parents were very worried about me and their attitudes didn't change until they went for a ride-along with me. The shift my mom rode was extremely busy and she loved it!
Did you find it hard to compete with male officers during the academy and FTO program?
I found in the academy, all the recruits really bonded more as a team. They accepted you as long as you worked hard and did your best. Once I got into the FTO program and onto a regular squad, I found the male officers did not trust you until you proved you could do the job. I came on 20 years ago and there weren't very many women officers, so many of the male officers had not worked closely with a female.
How do you balance the scale between family life and shift work?
Balancing is always tough in whatever job you do. The police department employees also become your family and often times I depended on my friends I have made here to help with the schedule conflicts you encounter.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation you could not handle because you were a female?
No, the training with this department is excellent.
Did you have any issues getting hired and how did you cope with the academy physical fitness requirements?
I did not have any issues getting hired; the process went very smoothly. The academy was physically demanding but it really builds self confidence. As long as you give 100% every day, you will make it through the fitness program.
What do you feel you bring to Mesa PD because of being a female officer?
Well, all females help make the department more diverse. The population we serve is about 50% female and there is a need for female officers. I believe women generally have good verbal communication skills, multi-tasking skills and negotiating skills.
Do you feel that Mesa PD is a diversified department and should the department seek harder to hire more female officers?
I believe this department is diversified and I believe we always need to do more recruiting and educating of females. We need to show them what the job really entails and that even if they have never thought about a career in law enforcement, they can do this job, be successful and benefit from the salary, medical benefits and retirement.
Give one example of a situation where being a female officer helped defuse the situation?
I went on a domestic violence call where it was not the homeowner's involved, but a relative and his wife. When it was determined the male was going to be arrested, the male homeowner became extremely agitated and upset because the relatives were from out-of-town. The homeowner was very muscular, tall, and appeared strong. It started to become a challenge on how many male officers were going to assist in taking him to jail when the homeowner fought with them. I stepped in to talk to the homeowner and his wife. I was not a challenge to him, so he felt comfortable to talk with me. He was able to calm down and think about his choices. He offered no further problems even when the relative was arrested.
What is your most memorable experience as a police officer?
The first Christmas day I worked, the family fights started at 7:00 am, neighbor problems around 10:00 am and I started to feel very depressed that people couldn't even get along on Christmas. As I was leaving a call involving neighbors who couldn't agree on where to place a garbage can, a little girl about 5 years of age and her mother came out from the house across the street and brought me a plate of Christmas cookies. They thanked me for doing my job and working on Christmas so they could all feel safe and enjoy theirs. It really reminded me of the reason I started this career.
Do you feel the department has been supportive in assisting you to reach your career goals?
What advice would you give to women who want to become police officers?
This is a great career for women. There are so many different areas you can go to within the department and the new assignments are almost like a new job! You can also build areas of expertise in some of the assignments that could turn into a career opportunity for you after you retire from police work. This job is fun and always changing. I would recommend this career to any female who likes a challenge with good pay and benefits.
If you would like to contact Sergeant Heckel, please send her an e-mail at Arlene.Heckel@Mesaaz.gov