The Florida Public Safety Institute (FPSI) celebrated the month of March that serves to recognize and honor women of achievement last Tuesday, March 28th with a gala breakfast and special keynote speaker, former-Congresswoman Gwen Graham. Graham, who represented the former District 2 in the Big Bend area until district lines were redrawn recently, is a potential gubernatorial candidate.
FPSI Executive Director E.E. Eunice introduced Graham with these words: "She worked both sides of the aisle to get things done, and has worked hard to save Apalachicola Bay. She was on the Armed Services Committee and introduced the Veterans Act to help injured vets as well as on the Agriculture Committee assisting with the USDA initiatives to help Florida farmers. She's following in her father's (former Florida Governor and US Senator Bob Graham) footsteps."
Congresswoman Graham gave special words by recognizing the law enforcement community's fallen law enforcement sister, Orlando Police Lieutenant Debra Clayton with a moment of silence to honor her.
"One of the greatest honors of my time in public service has been getting to meet with officers who have performed heroic actions to save lives and meeting with family members of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Graham. “For those of you who don't know, my commitment to law enforcement and our officers is a personal one.
My husband Steve Hurm has spent most of his professional life in law enforcement. Our marriage has given me a firsthand view of your commitment to protecting our communities."
She recognized all the female law enforcement members in the audience and told them that they were part of a brave line of women in public safety dating back to
America's first female police officer, Marie Connolly Owens, who began with the Chicago Police Department in 1891. In addition, she recognized Georgia Ann Robinson, America's first African American officer who joined the Los Angeles police force 25 years later.
Robinson was quoted as saying, "In my present position I expect to accomplish much good," she told the LA Times. "In fact so much has already been done through this new office that there is no end to its possibilities." Graham said, "I was taken aback by that quote, because I believe it is the driving reason all of us have entered public service, whether public safety or running for elected office - we join to help people; to do good."
Graham said in the US Congress, she was one of 104 women, less than 25% of Congress. There are even fewer women in public safety: women make up just 12% of sworn officers nationwide, she said.
FPSI Executive Director Eunice then praised the women in law enforcement being honored at the event:
Leon County Sheriff's Office's Chief of the Judicial Bureau Linda Butler – recently elevated by Sheriff Walt McNeil to her current position. Butler said she's been humbled over the years by her family, friends and co-workers. "It's an honor to represent our growing ranks. I quickly learned the art of persuasion," she said about making difficult arrests. "The key is to surround myself with those who are role models. I try to be a coach, teacher and mentor; to lead by example; to encourage and praise others."
Chief Butler is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, DEA Basic and Advanced Narcotics Schools and Florida Sheriff's Association's Commander's Academy, among other milestones.
Colonel Heather Hamlin of the Jefferson Correctional Institution – Col. Hamlin began her law enforcement career at the Liberty County Correctional Institution in 1998. She said her job entailed shift work, working holidays; "I've been inside prisons all my life," she said in thanking her family for always believing in her and being overwhelmed by her staff and supervisors who supported her and were there at the ceremony. She was selected for the Munitions Squad on the Rapid Response Team for her Institution, serving two years of which she was Assistant Squad Leader.
Trooper Chantale Jones, Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) – Trooper Jones started with FHP in 2004; in 2016, Jones became the first FHP female motorcycle trooper. She said she had learned to have a backbone from her mother, father, husband and auntie, and thanked FHP for her opportunities. The two-week motor school was not an easy journey, but was grateful to her fellow motorcyclists, who are like a second family. She asked for special prayers for one of the cyclists, Trooper Carlos Osaquos, who was involved in a horrific crash in South Florida.