CHEYENNE, Wyo. --
I pulled up to the parking lot of the Torrington police station which is about eighty miles northeast of Cheyenne near the Nebraska border. It is an understated brown building which shares its location with city hall. Over the glass doors in block letters reads “police station.” Officer Rebekah Miller is waiting for me in front of the doors to the station. She is wearing a hat with the Torrington police patch above the brim, which slightly shades her eyes. Her black uniform adorns her patrolman shield, Torrington police patch, radio and utility belt which carries her weapon and handcuffs. It is a stark contrast to the Airman battle uniform she wears on the weekend when she is working as a command post specialist. We exchange greetings and enter the building as she starts an informal tour of her department.
We walk toward a large security door where she leans down so the card in her pocket can disengage the electronic lock. We walk past the dispatch area, which incorporates dozens of screens linked to cameras feeds, computers and radios. She introduces me to the dispatcher and tells me that she has performed dispatch duties when she was healing from an injury. We move on down the dimly lit hallway and I ask her how many officers work at the department. She points to a wall where names of past and present officers are written on cards and framed with brown wood. Next to her name is a gold medallion hanging from a blue ribbon. She explains that whenever an officer exhibits outstanding performance an award is placed around the wooden frame that surrounds their name. Her medallion represented a suicide save where she interrupted an a person trying to commit suicide. I adjust a few settings on my camera and snap a few pictures of her next to her name and medallion.
We move on down the hallway past a training room then past an interrogation room with a large one-way mirror, a small desk and a scarcely padded metal chair. We walk a little further and stop at a room with three desks and a half dozen chairs. She walks toward the one on the far left. Stacks of papers are lined up in neat piles next to a keyboard and computer screen. She explains that the desks are shared by all the officers on duty and that the papers consist of warrants she has processed and ongoing investigations. She carefully organizes the stacks and puts them away in her desk for the interview.
She starts off by letting me know that she has been in the Wyoming Air National Guard for six years and has worked as a traditional guardsman in the command post with a two year full-time tour in the finance department. I ask her why she chose to pursue a career in law enforcement. “I couldn’t think of a better job where you get to go to work every day and do something different and never know what is going to happen,” Miller said. “What other job can you go to the range and shoot or run traffic or start an investigation? I love the variety and the excitement.”
After we talk about some of her personal background and experiences in the department, I ask her about why she picked such challenging jobs and if there were similarities of her job as a peace officer and a command post specialist. “I picked jobs that were challenging because, in the military, there is such a solid base, so much structure and I felt like I wanted that with my civilian job, too,” said Miller. “I wanted something that was going to help me grow in my career.” She laughs and asks if I could repeat the second part of the question. I laugh as well and ask her how both jobs are similar. “Both jobs taught me so much about leadership and teamwork and things that are important to me,” explained Miller. “In both jobs you can be very stressed at times. Both jobs teach you how to handle things that are hard to handle.” She gathers her thoughts and explains a little further. “I’ve never felt more confident because of them [both jobs.] It’s like being in the military prepared me for this [being a peace officer.]
I tell her that March is Women’s History Month and ask her if she has had difficulty as a woman in either the police department or the Air National Guard. “I wouldn’t consider being a female has caused any roadblocks in my career,” said Miller. “It is always different on a call, me versus the guys, but it doesn’t change anything. I’m their backup or they are my backup. We get the job done either way.”
We move on the subject of career aspirations. “I think I’m going to stay in the guard for my entire twenty,” said Miller. “I love it there. I want to keep promoting, keep learning and eventually become supervisor and take care of people like the people who took care of me.” She looks at me as if in deep thought. “I want the same thing with my job as a peace officer. Everyday it is something different. You are always growing. I think both jobs have made me into something different than I thought I would ever be.”
I ask her about any advice she would give to a young woman wanting to pursue challenging jobs like law enforcement or military. “I would tell her that it is challenging but the reward is so much bigger because you go through the tough things like the academy or basic training,” said Miller. “When you finally get to the point where you graduate and you feel the pride in it — it makes it all worth it.”
We are interrupted by a squawk on the radio. There is a domestic disturbance in town and Miller runs out the office toward her vehicle.
I catch back up with her during drill when she is making a presentation from the Rising 6 Council to Chief Master Sgt. Michael Abbott for his retirement. I sit down with her and one of her peers to ask a few final interview questions. She sits down in our studio and I ask her if anyone influenced her decision to pursue law enforcement.
“I don’t have any family members that were in [law enforcement] but my father, who was in the military, spoke highly of law enforcement,” said Miller. “Everyone whom I’ve met who was a cop has had such a command presence and it seemed like something I would really enjoy.”
Next, I sit down with Master Sgt. Zach Palmer who works with Miller in the command post. I ask him what it is like working with Staff Sgt. Miller. “She brings in quite a bit to the team,” said Palmer. “She brings enthusiasm, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.” I ask him whether or not it makes a difference in the command post that she is a female. “I don’t think it makes a difference at all that she is a female, “said Palmer. “It is her personality, the enthusiasm, how outgoing she is and that she doesn’t back down when things get difficult. She is someone who we can count on in the command post.”
Finally, I ask Miller’s supervisor Senior Master Sgt. Michele Henning what it is like having Staff Sgt. Rebekah Miller in the command post. “Staff Sergeant Miller excels at whatever she does,” said Henning. “She is a born leader who takes on the tough challenges whether she is in a blue law enforcement uniform or in an Airman battle uniform. I think she will continue to inspire future Airmen to go after what they want – no matter how difficult the obstacles.”