- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SELLERSBURG, Ind. (AP) - Alexis Shaver may be the first and only female officer for the Sellersburg Police Department in decades. But to the other 15 full-time officers on the force, she’s no different from the rest.

“I get along with them just like anybody else, and they get along with me just like I’m one of the guys,” Shaver, 23, told the News and Tribune (https://bit.ly/1uXZc1z ). ” … It would kind of make me upset if they did (treat me differently) here.”

Shaver, a Sellersburg native, was a reserve officer for the department before she was hired on full time last year in the former dispatch office. She graduated from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in November and was just released from field training at the beginning of January.

For Chief Russ Whelan, the day a female officer joined his force has been long-awaited. Whelan said he’s been trying to hire a woman in the decade he’s been chief, but she would have to pass his rigorous tests first before entering the academy.

“I wasn’t going to hire just any female just to be hiring a female,” Whelan said. “They have to be able to do the job.”

Shaver fit both Whelan’s wishes.

“I got lucky because I was able to hire a female that was very capable of doing this job, fits in, gets along with all the guys,” he said.

She was the only reserve in a class of 22 to make the cut, but it took two tries. Whelan said she was a couple pushups short of passing the physical portion.

“When she came back that second time, she wasn’t close on anything,” he said. “She passed everything with flying colors.”

Shaver knew she wanted to enter law enforcement when she was a student at Silver Creek High School. She has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Indiana University Southeast and has practiced mixed martial arts.

Whelan calls Shaver the department’s “hometown girl.” Shaver said there are good and bad things about serving for the town she grew up in.

“I’ve had run-ins with people from high school,” she said. “It’s one of those things - it’s part of the job.”

But she’s proud to be the department’s first female officer, Shaver said.

“I think it’s good for women to have a role model, especially because it is a man-dominated field,” she said.

Within the office, Shaver fits right in. Sgt. Drew LaMaster, Shaver’s supervisor, said that’s important in a small department.

“I try not to treat her any different than I would anybody else because that’s not fair to her,” LaMaster said. “She’s got to pull her own weight just like any of the guys do, and she does.”

He said her young age is what stands out to him.

“She’s just learning the ropes just like anybody else would,” LaMaster said. “She’s doing a really good job.”

Whelan said he hasn’t heard any negative critique from the other officers.

“She’s come out, she’s eager to learn, she’s very mindful in her tactics of how she’s approaching cars and approaching people and things of that nature,” Whelan said. “So I want that for all my officers, not just her because she’s female.”

Outside of the office, being a female officer can be beneficial - especially in domestic calls from other women.

“I feel like sometimes (female civilians) have a hard time talking to male officers being that it may be intimidating or something that they feel like they can’t discuss,” Shaver said.

But female officers can also be harassed on the street more than their male counterparts, Whelan said.

“That’s unfortunate, but it’s just the way it is,” he said. “I said, ‘And you have to be able to handle that. They’re going to call you names.’”

It only took a couple of days for that to happen to Shaver, he said.

“These are the things that I try to tell her that she’s going to have to deal with, have that thicker skin and just do your job, and she’s doing great at that,” he said.

Shaver said communicating with people is one of her favorite parts of the job.

“I’ve always kind of wanted to make a difference in somebody’s life, whether it be multiple people or just one person,” she said. “And I don’t want to have just a job, I want it to be fun. I think I’m on the right path.”

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Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., https://www.newsandtribune.com


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