Pa. officer making history as department's first female sergeant
This is the second time Sgt. Aileen Torrente has been the first woman in her department's 68-year history to be promoted
Bucks County Courier Times
MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Aileen Torrente is a trailblazer who shies away from that label.
She just wants to be the best cop she can be.
After becoming the first woman ever to be promoted in the Middletown Police Department when she went from patrol officer to detective in 2014, Torrente recently doubled down with another promotion to sergeant, the highest rank for a woman in the force's 68-year history.
Yet, her concentration is strictly on the job ahead, not on her legacy.
"It's an honor to be promoted," said Torrente, 38. "I'm not looking at it as the first female promoted to sergeant in Middletown, but simply as a sergeant promotion. I've already been promoted to detective, so I understand what the challenge of a promotion is.
"I'm now just one of seven sergeants in our police department and am focused on doing a sergeant's job. I have much to learn and am focused on becoming a great first-line patrol supervisor."
Torrente, whose eventual goal is to be a police chief, joined the Middletown department in 2006, a few years after earning a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the College of New Jersey.
As a detective, she handled a large number of special victims and sex crimes cases for the department, Middletown Police Chief Joseph Bartorilla said. Torrente is also a certified polygraph examiner and does polygraph examinations not only for her own force, but also some surrounding departments.
Her rise has been impressive, Bartorilla said.
"Aileen has certainly achieved something significant with her promotion not just in Middletown Township, but in Bucks County," he said.
Ron MacPherson, police chief in Upper Southampton and president of the Bucks County Association of Chiefs of Police, said that of 950 total sworn officers in the county's police departments, fewer than 10% are women.
And while MacPherson didn't have a breakdown by rank, Bartorilla said his research showed that none of those women in county police departments or the sheriff's department have the rank of lieutenant or above, and fewer than 10 are corporals or sergeants.
Torrente is one of only six women on the 59-member Middletown force. The other five are all at the lowest rank of patrol officer, though some have specialized duties within that rank.
"There hasn't been many women in the department historically to test for open positions, and promotions are quite competitive," Bartorilla said. "Plus, promotions in smaller departments are much less frequent than in larger, big-city departments. So the opportunities just aren't there as often."
MacPherson said he didn't know why the number of women in county law enforcement is so low, but said he hopes it will get better and will do what he can to make that happen.
"The numbers are better than they were," he said. "We're hiring more females than we ever have and make an effort to recruit females and minorities. I know my last two hires here in Upper Southampton have been women."
Amy Strouse, vice chairwoman of the Middletown board of supervisors, said the township is working to expand opportunities for women, including within the police department.
The township now has a 3-2 female majority on the board and has had a female manager, Stephanie Teoli Kuhls, for several years.
Middletown added paid two-week parental leave for all employees in the case of birth, adoption or placement of a child. In addition, short-term disability coverage was enhanced to ensure that female employees who give birth are able to take six or eight weeks maternity leave without financial impact, Strouse said.
"This is really a best-in-class benefit that I hope will attract more young women to follow in Sgt. Torrente's very capable footsteps," she said.
A 1999 Neshaminy High School graduate, Torrente grew up in Middletown and still lives there with her children, Grayson, 6, and Savannah, 4.
After college, she put herself through the police academy while working part time.
All the hard work has paid off, including from a financial standpoint. Not yet in her 40s, Torrente will earned a salary of $118,476 in her new position, about a $5,000 increase in pay.
"I'm grateful for this opportunity and hope to make the most of it, to help make our police department better and improve on the already great service we provide to our community," she said.
"I inherited a great patrol squad and want to keep that going, and even improve on it if we can. I have some great fellow sergeants to help guide me through the first few months of adjusting to my new rank. But, I've looked forward to this for some time and am ready for the challenge."
- Women Officers