Inside a sewer drain is not where most sergeants would find themselves, but Laurie Halaba, the smallest person and only woman in her patrol group, squeezed in to rescue ducklings that were stuck.
That dedication to her community has taken her to history-making heights. In the 165-year history of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, Halaba is the first woman to be appointed bureau chief.
Halaba, who has been in law enforcement for 22 years, was sworn in as captain of patrol operations on Jan. 24.
“Hopefully, I can give some inspiration to other females in this line of work,” Halaba said. “It’s not easy being in the law enforcement field just because it’s such a male-dominated field.”
As the bureau chief of public safety and the captain of patrol operations, she oversees the patrol division, which includes every officer working on the street; the crime lab; and the investigation unit.
“Her ability to make connections not only in the community but in our agency, and her commitment to officer wellbeing, and deputy wellbeing, is second to none,” said Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown . “She really strives to make sure that our staff and civilians have their mental health needs taken care of and their overall wellness addressed.”
The communities both inside the department and out are Halaba’s main priority in her new position.
“The main priority in my new position is to listen to my people,” Halaba said. “They’re the ones that come up with ideas for change or how we can do things better. It can make a huge difference.”
Halaba started in law enforcement when she received high school credit to work in a records department. After attending college to become a veterinary technician, Halaba decided to join the force.
“I’d say probably in the last ten years, it has gotten a lot better to where we see a lot of females in this profession now, but it still is a struggle,” Halaba said.
She spoke on how easy it is for women to compare themselves to their male counterparts, and how her years of experience taught her to not let herself do that. The biggest piece of advice she gives to the other women in her agency is to realize their self-worth.
“You gotta be yourself and that’s what gets you to where you want to go,” she said. “I’m hoping that kinda rubs off on other females.”
As the first woman in her position, Halaba hopes her successor will have that trait in common.
“Personally, I hope it’s a female. So I do whatever I can to help the females in our organization to feel like they have the confidence to actually take the spot one day,” she said.
Halaba said the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office has multiple women in sergeant and lieutenant positions, something she hopes it can continue.
“She’s not only an inspiration for women in our agency. She’s an inspiration for generations to come of young women who want to get into the law enforcement profession,” Brown said. “Being the dad of two little girls, I think this provides a viewpoint of law enforcement that you can reach the top echelons of this profession.”
Nine different Colorado agencies have taken the step to work towards the same goal, after signing the 30×30 initiative, which promises to enhance public safety by advancing the representation of women in law enforcement.
The 30×30 website states that research shows women officers use less excessive force, make fewer discretionary arrests, and are named in fewer lawsuits. According to 30×30, only 12% of officers in the U.S. are women, and women hold only 3% of law enforcement leadership roles in the country.
The Colorado agencies that signed the pledge are the Aurora Police Department, Boulder Police Department, Castle Rock Police Department, Colorado State Police Department, Denver Police Department, Durango Police Department, Fort Morgan police department, Grand Junction police department, the University of Colorado Boulder police department, and the Regional Transportation District Police Division.
“Ultimately, one of my jobs as a leader is that I need to coach and mentor somebody to take my spot eventually,” Halaba said. “… If they see me doing it, then hopefully they’ll think, ‘well, she did it, I can do it’.”
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