Sara Al Harthi
Eight years ago, Sarah Shendy was the only female officer on night shift in her department. And one time another department called her and asked for help. They had a sexual assault victim and she wouldn’t talk to any of the male officers because she wasn’t comfortable and she wanted a female officer. The department had to contact Shendy because the male officers didn’t know how to make the victim feel safe.
“There’s definitely a need for female officers out there because we are built differently. We’re created differently,” Shendy said. “It just lightens up the situation when a female officer steps in the room, it makes the situation a lot easier to handle.
Shendy is an Arab Muslim Law Enforcement Recruitment Administrator, but before that she was a police officer. Shendy moved to the U.S. from Egypt when she was seven years old, she graduated from Kent State University with a criminal justice major. And got into the police academy in 2007.
“I fell into law enforcement by a complete and total fluke,” Shendy said. “It was never anything that I’ve planned on doing only because I didn’t always have the confidence that I have now growing up, especially because of the different cultural expectations and what you’re told at school versus what you’re being told at home.”
Shendy never thought that she would be a good police officer because of her differences. She said that a lot of people are scared and hesitant to get into the law enforcement because English is their second language, or they grew up in completely different environment.
“When it comes to minorities, we need that cultural knowledge,” Shendy said. “We need reform because we have so many cultures in our society. Our differences are what make us an asset in this job, if it wasn’t for my cultural differences and my knowledge of the religion and speaking a different language, my career would not have taken off.”
Shendy said that the law enforcement has been and still is predominantly a male dominated profession and that could be a scare tactic for some people
“If you had a police department with 50 people and they’re all white males, what do they have to offer? they probably all grew up the same.” Shendy said. “They probably have the same education or background or military, but imagine a department of 50 police officers and you have Muslims, Christians, Jews, you have Hispanics, you have people that speak the language, the Spanish language. Imagine how powerful that would be in a jurisdiction.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced last month that Shendy is going to head a new state agency aimed at recruiting more women and minorities into the law enforcement.
“I care about women and minorities because I’m on the inside,” Shendy said.
Shendy said the they are working closely with local police departments across the state to advertise job openings to try to attract applicants from different backgrounds. She also has plans to create programs to educate the public on police officers work.
“I feel that law enforcement is the best kept secret. I don’t think people know about what we do,” Shendy said.
Shendy said she wants to create mentoring programs to help support recruits who are going into the police academy training
“Some police departments have an excellent recruitment model, but so many minorities are just afraid to go into police work they’re afraid they won’t fit in,” Shendy said.
Shendy is grateful for her career. She said she would do anything to help people because she is a decent human being and she cares about the people.
At a recent Kent City Council meeting, the committee discussed the diversity issues in the law enforcement. The committee encourage the hire teams to hire more diverse people.
Administrative Lieutenant Michael Lewis said in the meeting that departments all across the U.S. are struggling with equal representation and it is not an issue just for the City of Kent. He also said that there is an anti- cop stigma going around and it is hard to find people to hire because of all the negative talk about the police in the media.
He said that black police officers are facing a two-front battle and dealing with extra challenges.
Lewis also said that women are also having some difficulties getting into the law enforcement, but there are some good and bad differences. female officers are able to communicate better with victims than a male officer which makes it very beneficial to have female officers in all police departments in the U.S.