Seven women from the Burbank Police Department attended the eighth annual Women Leaders in Law Enforcement (WLLE) Symposium earlier this month in San Jose, CA. The conference included several workshops on diverse topics, such as cyber-bullying, digital media, leadership and leading from within, special weapons and tactics for life, critical incidents, female forces and training women to lead. All of the presenters and speakers were women leaders in the law enforcement profession.
Burbank was represented by a diverse group of four civilian and three sworn personnel: Officer Angela Burrows, Jailer Nicole Caito, Records Technician Jana Howington, Crime Analyst Michelle Larson, Officer Kristiana Sanchez-Suarez, Officer Kiyomi Scott and Forensic Specialist Diane Shear.
“The WLLE Symposium was an inspiring experience, filled with informative lectures exploring the topic of leadership in all its forms, especially pertaining to law enforcement from ethics to values, to managing versus mentoring, to clarity of direction, to nurturing curiosity in one’s team,” commented Ms. Howington, who’s worked for the BPD for six years. “It brought to light that leadership is not a process of knowing, but rather a process of growing.”
“Law enforcement is a team effort and the desired outcome of a situation is based on the unity of a team. Professional women are strong as individuals and we sometimes need to acquire the skills to understand and fortify our team dynamics,” continued Ms. Howington. “This huge gathering of women – over 600 – in law enforcement was an example that leadership is not about ‘me,’ but the collective ‘we.’ To lead is to really hear those around you… and to understand what inspires them to give their best performance.”
“These two days of intensive ‘woman empowerment’ lectures and workshops revealed to the attendees that we are no longer on the periphery of law enforcement. We are front and center and we can handle the job with strength, courage and brilliance,” concluded Ms. Howington.
“I was particularly anxious and excited to find out that I was selected to attend this year’s WLLE conference. I was ecstatic when I was made aware that speakers such as Attorney General Kamala Harris and Chief of Santa Monica PD, Jacqueline Seabrooks, would be in attendance,” added Officer Scott, who’s been with the department for over two years. “In a career that is male dominated, I feel that it is important to address the women forces and to be in unity with one another. What I took from this conference is that ‘leadership’ does not just consist of being in a high position of authority, but being strong in all aspects of your life such as health, wellness, family and morals.”
“Speaker Janice Niederhofer emphasized the concept of putting yourself and family first before your career. Janice reminded me that leadership does not only apply at work, but in your personal life as well,” Officer Scott continued. “My biggest take-home message from this conference was that we, as women, must remember to uplift each other because this career does not always have to be competitive. Being a leader does not mean to walk in front of others; the best leader walks beside them.”
“I love the fact that my co-workers and I were able to get together at the crack of dawn to participate in the 5K walk/run. I am particularly NOT a morning person, but I absolutely enjoyed the bond that we created at this conference,” Officer Scott mentioned. “I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to see these lovely ladies out of our ‘work’ environment if it wasn’t for this conference. I am truly grateful and hope to be able to attend many WLLE conferences in the future.”
Officer Burrows, who’s been with the force for just two years, agreed. “As a new police officer and especially with being a female officer, I felt it was important that I attend the conference. It was a great opportunity for me to network with other female leaders. I feel that the WLLE conference is an excellent opportunity for all females serving in law enforcement to attend this conference in the future.”
“The two most noticeable benefits I received from participating in the conference were recognizing that while women are greatly outnumbered in law enforcement, if women from many departments get together, the group seems very large and accomplished. Secondly, I realized that the small group from Burbank PD may have had very little connections with each other prior. However, since the WLLE conference, the seven women from Burbank PD have now networked into friends and coworkers who better understand each other and how we fit into a larger group of women working in law enforcement,” explained Ms. Caito, a nine-year veteran of the department. “I look forward to attending the WLLE conference again because I believe I benefited as a person and an employee.”
Ms. Caito added, “I found some aspects of the conference very motivational. Most women were speaking about furthering their career in law enforcement. While there, I realized that there is no way to further my career in Burbank jail as there is no room for career advancement without changing jobs. Many speakers motivated attendees to work hard at all times to enhance your career. I realized that there is always room for career advancement even if the position does not yet exist.”
“What we’re trying to do with our organization is for all people, civilians and sworn personnel at all levels, to have the opportunities and interactions that will make them contemporary and truly promotable,” commented Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse. “Our department actively seeks other organizations to join, network with and learn from, because we want to develop true leaders within our department, individuals who can lead within their own departments and help make our organization as a whole contemporary and truly the best.”
“We have sent women to the WLLE conference for the past four years. I’ve been in this line of work for over 40 years and it has been a male dominated field, but it is changing now,” Chief LaChasse added. “We want to empower all our people to grow and be the best in what they do. We try to get our people plugged into the right groups that will advance their careers. At the WLLE and other conferences, it’s important for our department members to develop contacts and gather information that will benefit them and help them in future situations. We are all about making sure our organization is contemporary and on the cutting edge, and then everybody benefits, especially our community.”
“I have been an Officer for Burbank for six years now and I have had the opportunity to attend the WLLE conference for the last three years. This conference is by far my favorite conference for many reasons,” commented Officer Sanchez-Suarez. “First, it allows us to network with other females from other agencies in all ranks. Second, it allows us to build camaraderie with each other from our department and form new relationships and understanding for each others’ duties at work. Third, I love listening to women in positions of authority or higher rank (for example, a police chief) present and share their experiences with us.”
“It has allowed me to understand that there will be challenges and there will be failures; this allows each and every one of us to grow into a better leader. We learn from our challenges and our failures and move forward to become stronger,” Officer Sanchez-Suarez added. “Our successes are something we need to celebrate and share with others by mentoring and being a positive role model.”
Officer Sanchez-Suarez described some of the positive results the conference has helped motivate for her. “Since attending the first WLLE conference, I have tested and gained a position on a new specialized unit. I completed my B.A. degree and decided to move forward and obtain my M.A. degree, both in Organizational Leadership. I look forward to my future at the Burbank Police Department and the opportunities that I will be presented with.”
The seven women who attended the WLLE Symposium plan to get together once a month to continue to grow the relationships made at the conference and bring in speakers and programs from which to learn. These individuals’ dedication and commitment to achievement and leadership in their roles with the Burbank Police Department demonstrate the high expectations and forward thinking the BPD holds for itself as an organization and its place in the community of Burbank.