- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - A 23-year-old Salina police officer who will compete in this summer’s Miss Kansas pageant said she wants to use the opportunity to improve the public’s image of law enforcement officers.

Katie Conn, one of two people chosen Jan. 9 to advance to the state pageant at the Miss Santa Fe Trail pageant in Ulysses, has been a Salina police officer since October 2014, The Salina Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1T87ahZ ).

Conn delivered a 90-second monologue about her law enforcement career at the Ulysses event, focusing on the boots she wears as part of her uniform.

“I’ve chased a guy in these boots over three fences taller than I am and felt the frustration when he got away,” she said in her presentation. “I’ve wrestled a guy in these boots because he didn’t want to go to jail. I’ve done traffic control for accidents in these boots, standing outside for hours until my fingers and hands were too cold to motion cars to stop or continue. … My job is not only to protect and serve or keep the peace. My job is to enforce the law. My job is to be the strict parent who tells you no.”

Jen Hittle, co-executive director of the Ulysses pageant, said Conn is passionate about changing the public’s negative perception of police.

“She is using the pageant world to help get her professional world out there,” Hittle said. “I loved her platform, and I think it’s something we need to open our eyes to now. It’s nice to see police spoken of in a positive light.”

The Colorado Springs, Colorado, native said the $1,400 scholarship she won at the Ulysses pageant will go toward the student loans she took out while earning her criminal justice degree at the University of Colorado.

Conn said pageant competition and law enforcement are both unfairly stereotyped and each require good communication skills.

“When I’m dealing with kids or the elderly or victims of terrible crimes, letting that soft side of me out and really being empathetic toward people definitely helps,” she said. “When I’m dealing with people who are angry or looking to fight or just committed a major crime, then I have to shut that part off.”

Both pageant life and law enforcement are important parts of who she is, she said.

“I just want people to realize that everybody has more than you see,” she said. “Whether you see me with a crown or see me with a badge, there’s more to me, and there’s more to all of us.”

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Information from: The Salina (Kan.) Journal, https://www.salina.com

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