The Colchester Police Department welcomed a new officer into its ranks this week — helping to shrink the force’s gender imbalance in the process.
“It’s always exciting for me and the community when we swear in a new officer,” town manager Dawn Francis told a small crowd gathered at the PD on Monday. “But I also think that it’s even more momentous this time around.”
Meghan Duell, 22, graduated from Norwich University’s criminal justice program last year and hails from Warsaw, N.Y.
Duell still faces two weeks of in-house orientation training, 16 weeks at the Vermont Police Academy, four weeks of post-basic certification training and 12-14 weeks of field training in Colchester before she’ll be out on her own.
After that, she’ll become just the third woman on CPD’s sworn staff, joining Chief Jennifer Morrison and Cpl. Jamie Bressler.
In November, Morrison told the Sun her department consistently struggled to recruit women and minorities. This is despite her prominent role as a female chief: Morrison also serves as the first female president of the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police.
“If anyone should be able to recruit female police officers it should be me, right?” Morrison asked. “Apparently this is not a career of interest to a lot of young women.”
Francis said she and Morrison set a goal of enlisting additional female officers nearly five years ago, remarking it “seems only fair” to have a stronger cohort of women on staff when they make up half the population.
“I’m obviously delighted every time we bring on a new recruit, but certainly having a strong female to put through training and get out on the street is really good for the community,” Morrison said.
It seems policing runs in Duell’s blood. Her father, who attended the ceremony, was an officer in New York for 13 years. Duell’s older sister currently serves with a PD in Texas.
“I didn’t know my dad as a police officer because he retired before I was born,” Duell said. “But because he was a police officer, you could never get anything past him. Anything.”
Duell said she was especially drawn to Colchester thanks to the town’s extensive lakefront mileage and CPD’s unique marine unit. The new officer was named the 2016 MVP on the Norwich varsity swim team and has held jobs as a lifeguard and swimming instructor.
Added to the “pros” list was the fact Morrison is the only female police chief of a municipality in Vermont, she said.
“I have a very high respect for her,” Duell said. “In this profession, for a woman to go up the ranks is just hard.”
Duell said she’s anxious to get through the police academy but is accustomed to the militant environment thanks to the Norwich customs. Plus, Duell joked, she’s already an expert at making a bed with neat hospital corners.
She said not having many female peers in the criminal justice program (or at Norwich in general, for that matter) rarely bothered her. In fact, she’s quickly begun to sense the distinct perspective she’ll bring to her new profession.
“All of us look forward to the day when this is not such a unique occurrence, for females to be part of this profession,” Francis said.