In our core classes, “The Winning Mind” and “The Winning Mind for Women,” we talk about honoring our fallen by telling their stories and remembering how they sacrificed. This is what warriors do, and have always done. When the battle is over, we lament, we mourn, we cry out to God, we gather around and tell the stories of our dead. These rituals are as important to us as the black mourning bands, the flag folding, the wailing bagpipes. We honor them, we bury them and then we work and we train “in their name.” We remember.
As I write this, nine female police officers have died in the line of duty in the first seven months of this year. Women are 11% of our current fallen officers. Their average age was 39, their average tour of duty was 14 years. But there is so much more to tell, and each one of these women has a story.
Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was shot and killed on New Years Day by an emotionally disturbed military veteran who had been previously discharged for civilian misconduct. An 11 year veteran of the National Park Service, Margaret patrolled the beautifulMount RainierNational Park, she had always enjoyed the outdoors. She was 34 years old with 11 years on the job.
That morning, Ranger Anderson set up a roadblock to intercept a suspect who had failed to stop at a snow-chain checkpoint staffed by another ranger. Unbeknownst to any of the rangers, the suspect was wanted in connection with a New Year’s Eve shooting near Renton, Washington, where four people had been were wounded, two of them critically.
When the suspect reached Ranger Anderson's roadblock, he made a U-turn, exited his vehicle, and opened fire. Margaret was shot before she was able to exit her patrol car. She was able to maintain cover and radio for help as the suspect fled on foot. Responding units attempting to reach Ranger Anderson were held at bay for approximately 90 minutes as the suspect continued to fire on them. They were finally able to rescue her when the suspect fled the area. His vehicle was recovered with additional weapons and body armor inside and his body was found the following day about six miles from the initial shooting scene.
Margaret did not survive her massive wounds. She was the married mother of two young children and her mother-in-law described her as an “excellent mother.”
Twenty days later, Corporal Barbara Ester, a 12 year veteran of the Arkansas Department of Corrections was stabbed to death by an inmate at the East Arkansas Regional Unit in Brickeys, Arkansas. She had observed the inmate in possession of a contraband pair of sneakers and entered the open barracks to confiscate them. As she approached the inmate he suddenly stabbed her twice in the stomach with a shank thought to be made out of a piece of air conditioning vent and an ace bandage. The inmate was already serving a life sentence for murder. Corporal Ester was flown to a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where she succumbed to her wounds.
Barbara Ester was 47 years old. She had been married to a co-worker for six years who was on duty at the time but not working the same area. Her nickname was “Mama Esther” because of her nurturing ways, both with young inmates and with the elderly of her church. She was described as a woman of incredible faith.
Only four days later Senior Police Officer Gail Thomas of theAtlanta,GA Police Department was struck and killed by a 22 year old woman who was suspected of drunk driving. Officer Thomas had responded to assist with a traffic incident on the exit ramp from southbound I-75 to northbound I-85. She had just exited her vehicle when she was struck. The drunk driver was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide, DUI, and reckless driving.
Gail had started her police career as a dispatcher 20 years ago but was then encouraged to enter the police academy to become an officer. She had been an officer for 15 years at the time of her death.
Chief George Turner remembered Thomas as "a great spirit." "She was also a member of our honor guard and she did that with great valor.” He said. “She was always out front, always willing to do what other folks just simply wouldn't. She is a testament to what I would hope all of our officers are." Gail Thomas was 46 years old.
Master Corporal Sandy Rogers of the Aiken, SC Department of Public Safety
was shot and killed on January 28, 2012 while responding to a call of a suspicious vehicle atEustisPark early that morning. A 27 year veteran, Sandy arrived on scene and radioed that she was approaching a blue vehicle. Another officer called for her one minute later and did not receive a response. She was found shot and badly wounded by a suspect also linked to another shooting earlier in the day inGeorgia. Sandy succumbed to her wounds at the hospital; she was 49 years old.
A lifelong resident of Aiken County, Sandy Rogers was memorialized by a friend as a tough little girl with a “hard right hook.” She was remembered by co-workers as having an incredible work ethic and an upbeat “lets do this” attitude. She was described as the department’s “mother hen” and an excellent role model for young cops. She was the “rock” that had helped hold the department together, and they pledged at her funeral to keep going. “We go on” one of her co-workers said. “That’s what she would say. That’s what we do now, too.”
Fifty three year old veteran Deputy Sheriff Barbara Pill of the Brevard County Sheriff's Office inFloridawas on patrol during the morning of March 6, 2012 when she stopped a vehicle wanted in connection with a stolen property call from a local motel. As Deputy Pill made contact with the driver and ordered him out of the vehicle he opened fire on her, striking her multiple times. Responding deputies,Melbournepolice officers, andFloridatroopers chased the vehicle a short distance until it crashed. A male and a female who had committed the motel burglary were taken into custody.
Deputy Pill had been in law enforcement for 30 years and served with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office for 15 years. She is survived by her husband, two sons and a grandchild. Both of her sons also serve in law enforcement.
Friends describe Deputy Pill as having “a passion for helping others.” They say that quality led her to a law enforcement career and also influenced her sons to follow in her footsteps.
Later that same day, Lake County, IN Sheriff’s Department Corrections Officer Britney Meux was struck and killed by a hit and run driver as she and three other officers were jogging along the outer perimeter of the Lake County Jail. Three of her co-workers were injured. Some of them were part of the department’s tactical team, other were on the special response team. The sport utility vehicle hit Britney so hard she was killed instantly. The driver fled the scene but later turned himself in.
Officer Meux was a high school cheerleader who later joined the Marine Corps. She was about to graduate college with a 4.0 GPA and was so excited to be a young mom. She and her boyfriend doted on their baby girl. Britney, known for her hair-braiding skills, had just given her daughter her vey first “hairstyle,” complete with red and white ponytails and bows. She died doing what she loved, one of her friends said at her funeral, “she loved to run.” Britney Meux was 25 years old.
Trooper Amanda Anna of the New York State Police was killed on May 25th, 2012 in a single vehicle crash while working overnight patrol. She had dropped her four year old son off at her grandparents’ house before heading to the state police barracks inHastings to report for duty. While on patrol she somehow lost control of her departmental Chevrolet Tahoe, left the rain-slickened roadway and crashed. She was engaged to a fellow trooper.
Anna had been on the job since 2006, and was well known in the community. She was a celebrated and fierce high school and college basketball player, and was described by son’s father as “very talkative, friendly and good with people.” One of her teammates called Anna “very competitive and not afraid to show it.” Anna was also remembered for her incredible work ethic and her caring ways. “Her arms were always open wide to give you a big hug.”
Originally planning to be an elementary school teacher, Anna took the test to be a state trooper and thrived. She gave birth to her son in 2008, and was a great mom. “That little boy was her world” said his father.
Denver, CO Police Officer Celena Hollis was working downtown at a jazz festival on June 24th, 2012 when she attempted to break up a fight. One of the suspects in the altercation pulled out a handgun, shooting Officer Hollis in the head. Celena was a 7 year veteran of Denver PD, and had also served on theDetroit,MI Police Department for four years. She was president DPD’s Black Police Officers Organization and extremely involved in the community.
She was memorialized with stories of her incredible level of fitness, her ability to listen attentively, and her vibrant sense of fashion and fun. At her funeral, songs like “Purple Rain” by Prince and Michael Jackson’s “Pretty Young Thing” were played while 50 of her favorite shoes were put on display.
Her 12 year old daughter, who was a toddler when her mom became a cop, talked of her mother’s love of travel, adventure and life. She described Celena as “sweet, crazy and loving.” Celena Hollis was 32 years old.
Correctional Officer Nikkii Bostic-Jones was walking from the sheriff’s office parking lot to the maximum security wing of the Cook County (IL) jail on July 18, 2012 when she was struck so hard by a blue conversion van that she was thrown into the path of an oncoming squad car and pinned underneath it. The 12 year veteran of the CCSO Department of Corrections was pronounced dead after transport to the hospital; the suspect fled the scene. He was arrested several days later.
The oldest of seven, Nikki was considered a family role model. She was one of the first in her family to finish college. She grew up onChicago’sWest Sidebut had since moved to the western suburbs with her husband and six year old daughter. The last thing the 38 year old officer said to her family as she left for work that day was “love you all.”
Women represent approximately 12% of law enforcement officers nationwide. "America's female law enforcement officers continue to suffer from the same threats and dangers as their male counterparts. ODMP ensure that their stories are told and their memories will never be forgotten” said Chris Cosgriff, founder of the Officer Down Memorial Page.
We are a warrior culture, and warriors sing the songs of their fallen. We make sure that no one, no brother or sister, is ever forgotten. Remember how these women sacrificed, tell their stories, and learn from each of them so that we derive the true meaning of their sacrifice.
About The Author:
Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith is a 29-year veteran of a large suburban Chicago police department. She retired in 2009 as a patrol supervisor, and has held positions in patrol, investigations, narcotics, juvenile, crime prevention and field training. As a sergeant, she supervised her department's K-9 Unit, served as a field training sergeant, recruitment team sergeant, bike patrol coordinator, the Crowd Control Bike Team supervisor, and supervisor of the Community Education/Crime Prevention Unit.
As a patrol sergeant, Betsy served on the Elderly Services Team, the Crisis Intervention Team, and was a supervisory member of the Honor Guard Unit. From 1999 - 2003 Betsy hosted various programs for the Law Enforcement Television Network and served as a content expert.
A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command, Betsy writes for numerous law enforcement and government publications including and is a regular columnist for many police websites and print magazines. A content expert and instructor for the Calibre Press "Street Survival" seminar from 2003 until 2013, Betsy also serves as an on-air commentator and advisor for the Police One Academy and was a featured character in the Biography Channel's "Female Forces" reality show. Betsy has been a law enforcement trainer for over 20 years and is a popular keynote speaker at conferences throughout the United States, Canada and beyond.
Betsy is the creator and lead instructor of “The Winning Mind for Women,” the original career and officer survival training for females in the police profession. She also co-owns Dave Smith & Associates and together, Betsy and Dave teach courses through "Winning Mind Seminars," an Arizona based training and consulting company. She can be reached through her website at www.femaleforces.com.