02/01/2008

Charlotte agencies looking for female officers

By Emily S. Achenbaum
The Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you're a woman thinking about a career as a police officer, firefighter or medic, Yumika Smith would like to meet you Saturday.

Smith, a 27-year-old police officer, will be at the door greeting attendees at "Women in Emergency Services Career Fair," a joint job fair for Charlotte's police, fire and medic departments.

"You're a counselor, a doctor, a minister," Smith said of her work. "If you love being a public servant, you will love this job."

The career fair, for women only, will encourage visitors to pursue several emergency-response careers including crime-scene investigator and 911 dispatcher.

Keith Richardson, a city of Charlotte spokesman, said the departments aren't recruiting women to meet any sort of quota.

"Our forces want to reflect their communities," Richardson said.

Only 10 percent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg firefighters, for example, are female. The numbers are only slightly higher for police and medics.

Richardson said Saturday's fair is the first time the departments have worked together to recruit women. The fair will include several participatory demonstrations, and attendees are encouraged to wear their sweatpants and sneakers.

Smith graduated from the police academy in March 2007, and now works for CMPD's metro division. She served as a military police officer with the U.S. Army at Fort Bragg, Afghanistan and Iraq, and said becoming a police officer was a natural career choice for her.

"They might think it's too hard, it's too dangerous," Smith said. "And it is a challenging job. But we're all capable of doing it, male or female."

Copyright 2008 The Charlotte Observer

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