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No. 1 Learns the Rules : Shannon Hale Finished Atop LAPD Class, but She Knows Her Education Has Just Begun

October 23, 1994|SHANNON HALE | Officer Shannon Hale, 24, graduated first in her class at the Los Angeles Police Academy, the first woman to do so. Hale is assigned to the Rampart station and has been on the job about six months. She was interviewed by Mike Wyma

My class started out with about 60 people and there were 50 when we were done. The department decides who finishes first by taking a cumulative total from four areas--report writing, academics, physical training/self-defense and firearms. I was first in PT/self-defense and right up there in everything else.

It might have helped me that I was the guidon. That's someone they choose toward the beginning of the academy to carry the class flag on all the runs. Actually, it's the name of the flag and it's also the name of the person who carries it. We'd had a few sessions of physical training and somehow they ended up choosing me, I think because my drill instructor had the biggest say-so.

Being guidon was neat, but I put a lot of pressure on myself. My drill instructor admitted to me after the whole thing was over that she had tried to prove a point about women with me. I'm not sure I made a difference. I happen to be female and came out No. 1. Hopefully, that will encourage other women, but I just don't know. I feel that a lot of that pressure is off now. I'm just trying to learn to be a good patrol officer.

I just worked my first murder. It happened before I came on watch. We were a backup unit. I saw the body and we were there about 4 1/2 hours, guarding one of the entrances to the scene.

I've made some arrests and just got my first court subpoena. It's a stolen-vehicle case. We were on patrol and observed a car that didn't have any plates. It was an older car and there was fresh TC (traffic collision) damage on the left taillight. We pulled the vehicle over and ran the car (called for identification) and it came back "possibly armed and dangerous." We brought the suspects in and the car turned out to be stolen.

They weren't belligerent but they went on and on with their stories. They lied. Everybody lies. I don't think I'll ever get over how much people lie to you out there. For the first couple weeks I was pretty gullible. I was buying everything. I'd say, "Really!" and I was writing it all down and the next thing I know they tell me something different. I'd go to my training officer and say, "What's the deal?" It's amazing to me how much he knows. It seems to me that he knows everything. He knows when they're lying. He knows what the story is. We'll be at the scene and I'll be clueless and he'll know the entire story.

From what I've been told it takes three to five years to become a good police officer. I want to make sure I'm competent before I move on to something else. If I get promoted, I don't want people looking at me and saying, "Yeah, she got promoted because she's a female. She doesn't know what she's doing out there."

I've thought about having a career plan with the department, but that would be like entering first grade and knowing what my major is going to be in college. There's so much I don't know right now and there are so many things I'd like to do, but there's a lot of learning to do. Hopefully, in a couple of years, I'll figure out the direction I want to take. Right now I just want to get the basics of patrol down.

The hours have been kicking my butt. Roll call is 11:15 at night and the watch ends at 8 in the morning. I've been sleeping in my closet because it's pitch-black. I drag a mattress in there and take my alarm clock. It's messed up my eating pattern. I lost a couple pounds and missed some workouts.

I've always been into fitness. I ran track in high school in Garden Grove and at Cal State Long Beach. Prior to going on patrol I worked out as much as I could.

I'm trying to do more weight training for strength because I'm kind of small. I'm only 5 feet, 3 inches and about 115 pounds. I've been lifting about five days a week and running a few miles. Lifting I enjoy, but I actually don't like running. But I feel really good afterward. I just have to get myself up and motivated and suck it up through the run. The results are worth it.

My dad's retired from the California Highway Patrol and I have an uncle who's a deputy sheriff in San Diego. And my brother is applying for the LAPD. My dad is very supportive. He says if he had it to do over again he'd go for the Police Department because there's lots more diversity.

*

The diversity of police work is what attracted me. No call is ever the same. You're moving around. It's exciting. I really don't think it will depress me. Maybe make me a little bit cynical but I think that's expected. I try not to dwell much on the negative stuff, the sadness. There's the other side. If you're arresting someone, you're helping out the victim. You're helping other people by getting this person off the street.

I've thought about Christy Hamilton (slain on-duty in February, shortly after graduating from the academy). Her drill instructor was the same as mine. She was in the class right before us, and our guidon had her name on it. But I'm not afraid, really. During my ride-along we were parked at a corner talking tactics and suddenly, maybe 25 yards away, about six rounds went off. It scared the crap out of me. We called out an air unit and walked around, searching for the suspects. But we didn't find anything. Since then I've been cautious. I'm very, very cautious.

I think at some point I'll be able to tell the difference between the really dangerous people and the everyday citizen. But at this point everybody remains dangerous.

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