Women police officers celebrated
Speakers include former Youngstown officers, OPATA instructor
By Joe Gorman
Women and police share quite a history, and it was discussed Friday in the Community Room of the Covelli Centre as part of a Women’s History Month forum on the history of women police.
Sue Centorame was one of the first women to regularly patrol a beat on the Youngstown Police Department when she was a rookie in 1978. At the time, however, she did not think of herself as a trailblazer – just as someone who had a criminal justice degree and decided to put her degree to use by joining the police department.
“I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do,” Centorame said.
Other speakers at the event included two former city police officers who joined the force the same year Centorame did, former detective sergeants Delphine Baldwin-Casey and Anita Davis.
The main speaker was Sgt. Lindsay Alli of the Columbus Police Department, where she has been an officer for nine years.
Sarah Shendy, who is an instructor at the Ohio Peace Officers Training Officers Training Academy, commonly known as OPATA, also talked of her first days as a police officer, starting at a small department before moving to the Copley Police Department. She was one of two female officers and when the other woman had to leave because of an injury, she was the only female on the 17-member force.
She said it took a while and she faced some resistance but her persistence paid off when she was recruited by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to work at OPATA. She still maintains her presence at Copley because she works part time there.
“Copley has been one of the biggest blessings of my life,” Shendy said. “In Copley I flourished.”
Centorame said when she, Baldwin-Casey and Davis started at Youngstown, they were well followed by the local media because of the novelty of having women police officers. She said she feels bad for the 35 men who were hired along with her who were just as good at their jobs and helped Centorame and the other women who started with her.
“Their story was never told,” Centorame said. “They took a back seat to us and that has hurt me for the last 40 years.”
Centorame said that she did not see resistance from older officers as much as a sexism issue than as a human rights issue.
“It just irked me that they made a big deal of a woman becoming a police officer,” Centorame said.