Gina Hawkins made history last summer when she became the first woman and first African-American police chief of Fayetteville. She is now one of six African-American women at the helm of police departments around the state. But when Hawkins took the job, she had no idea it would garner so much national attention, including an interview on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today.”
Chief Hawkins joins host Frank Stasio to talk about her first year in office, which included handling the aftermath of her departments’ destruction of hundreds of rape kits and the arrest of the Ramsey Street rapist, a case that sat cold for years. Hawkins will share her personal story, the unique challenges of law enforcement in a military town, and how she is fostering a relationship with the community.
On her start in law enforcement
My front line supervisor saying directly to me: I don’t think women should be in law enforcement during an evaluation, so if that were to occur right now he’d have problems or she’d have problems saying a statement like that. But that being the norm back in 1988 was a challenge I knew I had to face, but I couldn’t fight it as a voice as strongly as I can fight it right now.
On her personal evolution
I was very tough growing up. I had a big voice. I loved to fight. I loved to argue, so maybe early on in my career I was probably rebellious to the authoritative supervisors that I had … I didn’t even promote to a sergeant until I was at the agency for 10 years. I think I finally had to learn that I had to change myself, which is figure out ways to navigate the field of law enforcement so that others would listen so I could be heard instead of fighting all the time.
On racially-biased police stops
Having one person conducting biased policing is one too many … You can’t just say: I don’t have a police department that’s racist. You might have an officer who doesn’t understand that his actions may be interpreted a certain way. Those are teaching moments for a police department or individual.
On the pressure of being the first black and first female chief in Fayetteville
The pressure, I think I’ve probably felt all my career in law enforcement. Definitely the pressure that I represent more than the chief. I represent women definitely. I represent women of color ... Of course there’s pressure. If there wasn’t any pressure that person probably needs to get out of the profession.