Northern Illinois University police observed Women’s History Month by hosting an event called "Women of the Shield" that commemorated women officers rising through the ranks.
NIU officer Weyni Langdon says she didn’t see a lot of people that looked like her at the beginning of her career, but she had a lot of women police mentors that inspired her. She wanted to create this type of gathering for the DeKalb area after she attended something similar when she first started out as a police officer.
“And I was in this arena where I was surrounded by women – women chiefs, women sheriffs, women lieutenants – and it was just really empowering, you know, to know that there are a lot of people that do look like me in this field,” Langdon said.
The keynote speaker this year was Gloria Graham, deputy chief for Northwestern University’s police department. She spoke about coming from a childhood with domestic violence and how she ended up where she is today with the help of several mentors in law enforcement.
Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman was last year’s keynote speaker for the event.
“You know, I think that any time you have diversity of thought or any kind of diversity of skill, that it’s better,” Ziman said. “It doesn’t matter who we bring to the table, as long as there’s diversity of thought, and I think to make our profession well-rounded, it’s necessary.”
NIU police commander Don Rodman agrees. He says the purpose of the event was to show how much women are valued in the profession.
Rodman says that, while every officer who has a family faces the same problems, policewomen especially tend to have added pressures between their work and home lives.
“And again, it’s finding that balance, but yet, we see them continue to succeed and they are such a valuable resource to any police agency,” Rodman said.
This is the second time Langdon hosted the event.
About 100 people attended the event, which was about a quarter more than the number of last year’s attendees. That includes officers from 19 police departments, government officials and event sponsors.
NIU’s police department has 12 women officers, and one is a sergeant.