8 Questions for Police Officer Tricia Seyler
Decades ago, female police officers faced many challenges: for instance, male officers refused to ride with them, and many women had to file lawsuits to get promotions. Today the experience for women in the force is improving at every rank — currently there are 24 female police chiefs in California, although women still only represent a fraction of the state’s total number of officers. Cotati’s Tricia Seyler, the city of Belvedere’s chief of police for the past seven years, has helped shatter the glass ceiling, but she prefers to be thought of as a leader, not a “female” leader
How did your interest in police work begin? I come from a family of police officers and firefighters. I always believed that police officers were in the business of helping people every day, and I wanted to do that.
Over the years more people of color and women have become officers. What skills do these groups bring to police work? Diversity is very important because law enforcement officers are expected to handle so many different types of problems; many of them are problems other than crime. Officers from diverse ethnic backgrounds play an important role because the communities we serve are more diverse. Women have traditionally been caretakers and verbal communicators and those are important traits in policing today. The law enforcement profession is changing quickly, and I believe that women who have chosen this untraditional role are successful in keeping up with these changes. As the chief, I bring to my role the feeling that we need to be transparent, engage with our community at every opportunity and work together to have a vision for keeping our community safe.
What’s contributed most to your success? For me it was as simple as, make the boss look good and work hard to be a good teammate. When I first started in law enforcement, I had a training officer who told me to think about doing my job from the perspective of my supervisor. That helped me have a broader perspective. Looking at my job from the perspective of what the community expects also helps a lot.
In this male-dominated culture, have you faced any gender bias? I have never viewed myself as being in a position where I fought gender bias. Most of my law enforcement career was spent with the Marin County Sheriff’s Office. During my 22 years there, I had many male supervisors and partners who supported me and helped me achieve my goals. I believe that as we get better at hiring, training and supporting women in law enforcement, our roles in leadership positions will increase.
In light of recent school shootings, how can law enforcement help our youth in relation to gun violence, awareness and protection? We need to be aware that it can happen anywhere. As a community, we have to make sure that students, teachers, parents and law enforcement have positive relationships so that we can address the problem together. Spending time in the schools and participating in school events helps improve relationships. I have participated in panel discussions about internet safety and driving safety with both students and parents. Having those opportunities is important in forming relationships and breaking down perceived barriers.
What motivates you to carry on? I enjoy what I do and want to share my experiences with younger officers. Staying in my position gives me many opportunities to meet people so I can do that.
What is the greatest piece of wisdom you’ve ever received? Be kind. My mother told me this a long time ago. It’s a piece of advice that works every day in every situation.