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More women making police work a career
By Jill Harmacinski
Staff writer

DANVERS - It was Christmas 1958. Beth Lundy was just 4, but she was already looking to the future.

Lundy's gifts that Christmas included cowgirl boots, a gun holster, a six-shooter and a sheriff's badge.

Forty-one years later, when Lundy was named the first female sheriff in Louisiana, a photo of that little girl wearing her Christmas gifts ran on the front page of the local newspaper.

Lundy told a packed ballroom at the Sheraton Ferncroft yesterday morning how she followed her heart, kept true to her dreams and rose to the rank of county sheriff in July 2000.

"Because a cowgirl gets up in the morning, decides what she wants to do and then goes out and does it," Lundy explained.

More than 600 men and women gathered at the Ferncroft yesterday morning to kick off the fifth-annual Women in Law Enforcement conference. Attendance to the two-day event, designed to empower women in police and correctional careers, has more than tripled since 1999.

Sponsored by Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins, the conference provides an opportunity for women in law enforcement careers to network and exchange ideas. A variety of workshops on topics such as drugs, hostage situations, elder protection and identity theft were offered.

A handful of state sheriffs, dozens of area police chiefs, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole and Kathleen Dennehy, the state corrections commissioner, spoke yesterday morning about the ever increasing roles of women in a formerly male-dominated field.

Healey noted that many women worked hard to climb up in these fields and did so "with grace, intelligence and the respect of their peers."

She encouraged the women to learn from each other and be open and honest about what they want from their careers. "The barriers have been lowered," she said. "I urge you all now to storm the gates."

Dennehy agreed. She told women attending the conference "to step out of your comfort zone" and try to meet four or five new people while attending the conference.

O'Toole spoke of the importance of her career mentors. As a young Boston police officer, "one of just a handful of women," many of her supporters were men.

"And I wouldn't be here today without them," she said

O'Toole also spoke of the importance of collaborating and allowing different police agencies to work together. "This conference is an excellent opportunity for all of us to exchange information."

The opening ceremony was also peppered with humor by many of the speakers. Both Healey and O'Toole pointed out that women attending the event were all seated at round tables in the ballroom while men were standing against the back wall of the ballroom.

"It really does look like a lineup. Would No. 3 please come forward," said O'Toole as the audience burst into laughter.

Salem News reporter Jill Harmacinski can be reached at 978-338-2652 or by email at [email protected].
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