Female police officers in Cowley County recently discussed their careers and experiences with the CourierTraveler. The officers discussed why they got into law enforcement, how they balance career and family, and advice for others considering the same field.
Sgt. Katasha Bledsoe has been with the Winfield Police Department for 8 1/2 years. She previously worked for the Winfield Correctional Facility for nine months, after receiving a degree in criminal justice from Newman University.
Bledsoe said she became interested in law enforcement due to a school resource officer at her high school who interacted well with the students, and also out of a desire to help people.
“I always felt I had it in me to do this job,” Bledsoe said about being a police officer.
Bledsoe said one of her favorite things about her job is the freedom to not have to be in a building all day, and the ability to be proactive. The hard part, she said, is interacting with people who are confrontational or do not like police officers. In those situations, Bledsoe said she tries to remain patient and calm.
“Being respectful can sometimes turn a situation around,” she said.
Although Bledsoe hasn’t experienced any opposition to being a female officer among her co-workers, she does does occasionally encounter members of the public who have trouble with women in positions of authority.
Bledsoe, who is engaged and has two children, said her career has been hard on her family at times, since officers are on a rotating schedule that includes both day and night shifts.
Bledsoe said she would eventually like to be promoted to police lieutenant.
Cori Tuxhorn, a master police officer and crisis intervention team coordinator with the Arkansas City Police Department, has been with the ACPD for just over 4 years. She was previously a police dispatcher.
Tuxhorn said she had wanted to be a police officer for years, inspired by her mother, a retired police detective, but didn’t have to guts to go for it. Tuxhorn, who is married with four children, also wasn’t sure how she would balance being a mom with police work. The ACPD has a great schedule, though, she said, which allows her to still spend some weekends wit her kids.
When Tuxhorn first started, there was only one other woman on the ACPD. Sometimes, she said, citizens were surprised when they called the police and a female officer showed up. Tuxhorn said there was one incident where she went on a call and was greeted at the door by a child, who called for the rest of the household to come and see the female officer.
Even if citizens were sometimes surprised to see a woman un a police uniform, Tuxhorn said her male co-workers have been open-minded, are willing to teach along the way and have everyone’s backs.
One of the rewarding aspects of the job is seeing younger female officers grow and gain confidence in themselves and their work, said Tuxhorn.
“It’s cool to see younger women come into that,” she said.
She also likes that the job isn’t monotonous, and that it allows her to be involved in the community.
One of the challenging aspects, Tuxhorn said, is that her children worry that she could get hurt on the job. Tuxhorn tells them that she has backup from other officers and training, and knows her co-workers would protect her if necessary. Another challenge, she said, is balancing being a good mother, wife and employee.
Tuxhorn said he goal right now is to continue building up the Crisis Intervention Team, which will help people facing mental health challenges get the services they need instead of potentially being arrested She is also helping form a group called Suicide Prevention of Cowley County.
Tuxhorn said her advice for women considering a law enforcement career is to just go for it, and not to let their age, motherhood or other things hold them back.
“The worst thing that can happen is you decide it’s not for you,” she said.
Officer Madison Pickett has been with the ACPD for 2 1/2 years. She majored in criminal justice at Cowley College and initially wanted to be a game warden, but began considering police work after meeting ACPD Capt. Eric Burr during her studies. She applied to the ACPD after completing an associates degree, and said Ark City was her first choice for where to work.
Pickett said she likes her co-workers and being part of the community. “I get to do something a little bit different every day,” she said.
The biggest challenge for Pickett, who is married with a 10-month-old child, is finding a balance between her family and her job. She accomplishes this by spending as much time with her child as she can when not at work, but said balancing things is an ongoing process.
In the community, Pickett said that some people are more willing to take orders from male officers, but overall people seem excited to see female officers. She said the ACPD has been great to work for, and was very accommodating when she was pregnant and had to go on light duty, then on maternity leave.
Pickett’s advice for women who are considering a law enforcement career is to learn as much as they can about the field, and to find a mentor.
Officer Madeline Pegorsch has been with the ACPD for three years. She previously spent one year working at the Cowley County Jail.
Pegorsch said she wanted to be a police officer in order to make a difference and give back to the community in a meaningful way.
Her favorite thing about being a police officer is community outreach, including the ACPD’s summer Popsicle Patrol, being a school resource officer at Ark City Middle School and being an assistant coach on the Ark City High School girls soccer team.
One of the biggest challenges of the job is the hours, said Pegorsch. Officers work 12-hour shifts, switching between day and night.
Pegorsch said sometimes people are surprised to be dealing with a female officer, although there is a lot of support from her co-workers and the community.
Her advice to women considering a law enforcement career is to not change who they are, because the things that make women unique are important to doing the job.
“It’s a very rewarding career. Don’t let things get in your way because of what others think,” said Pegorsch.