By SARAH LEHR
When Delphine Baldwin-Casey first joined the Youngstown Police Department in 1978, she used to pray that she could fade into the background during roll call at the start of every shift.
Baldwin-Casey, who was then 27, had joined the department just as women were first being permitted to go out on patrol. Some of the veteran cops were not happy about the changes, Baldwin-Casey said.
“The sexist things that they would say, you would be sued for now,” Baldwin-Casey said. “It was all geared to make women fail.”
Baldwin-Casey, who describes herself as “stubborn,” said those remarks hardened her resolve. She said the other officers took her on the types of calls that rookies wouldn’t ordinarily see.
She remembers one instance, when her co-workers told her to check out a basement. There was a man inside with his head blown off. When she came back outside, Baldwin-Casey acted nonchalant and quipped that the man had a problem because he could no longer wear a hat.
She then walked around the corner, so the other officers wouldn’t see her throw up.
Baldwin-Casey, who retired from the Youngstown Police Department in 2010, was the first woman to become a front-lines supervisor there. She is marking another milestone this year, as the first black female officer in the Campbell Police Department’s history.
She was sworn-in in Campbell this summer as a part-time patrol officer, earning $10.50 hourly. She is a Campbell native.
Campbell has 14 full-time police officers, including one woman. Baldwin-Casey is currently the only black police officer in the city.
Twenty-one percent of Campbell’s population identifies as black and close to 16 percent identifies as Hispanic, according to the most recently available data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Campbell has a lot of Greeks, a lot of Spanish, a lot of blacks, a lot of Italians, so we do need diversity,” said Campbell Police Chief Dennis Puskarcik, in response to a question about diversity within his department.
“Color never enters my mind. It’s about quality of the applicant. I could never ask for a more qualified person than Delphine.”
Those qualifications include Baldwin-Casey’s work for the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown as a victims’ assistance coordinator. The position involves reviewing sexual-abuse allegations against priests and other church personnel.
Baldwin-Casey helped found the Youngstown Crisis Intervention Unit in 1996 and feels passionately about assisting victims of sexual and domestic violence.
When she was a rookie, Baldwin-Casey said some of her shift partners instructed her not to get involved with domestic-violence cases involving police officers, especially if the officer had a higher rank.
“I had a hard time with women being abused by their spouse, but not just by their spouse, but by the judicial system from the police department on up,” Baldwin-Casey said.
Additionally, Baldwin-Casey teaches in the police academy at Youngstown State University and works as a diversity and cultural awareness consultant to other police departments.
When she leads diversity training, Baldwin-Casey often uses herself as an example. At first glance, people categorize her only as a black woman, she said, and don’t realize she has a grandmother from Czechoslovakia and a grandfather from Saudi Arabia.
“It didn’t matter what I said to people,” Baldwin-Casey said of her early life. “They didn’t see the richness of the diversity in me. They saw the skin color.”
She says her upbringing in Campbell was key to shaping her perspective on life.
“I always wanted to come back here to work,” Baldwin-Casey said. “I view this as going home.”