The Female Force: Empowering Women in Law Enforcement

The Female Force

The National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum (NLEMM) and the National Organization of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE) are working together to provide this live virtual discussion focusing on empowering women in law enforcement.

Women constitute less than 13% of total officers in this country—with an even smaller proportion of leadership positions—despite comprising over 50% of the total US population. Despite recent efforts to increase representation, the percentage of women in law enforcement has remained stagnant for the past few decades.

How do women contribute in ways that differ from their male colleagues? What strengths do women bring to the field? How do they impact the safety of officers and the communities they serve? These questions and others will be discussed during our live program, moderated by Kathy O’Toole.

Join us for a conversation that will continue to build from the stories and insights shared during our Breaking the Blue Ceiling event in December 2020.

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The Female Force


  • Paula Balafas, President, National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives


  • Kathy O’Toole, First female commissioner of the Boston (MA) Police Department, first Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate, and Chief of the Seattle (WA) Police Department from 2014 to 2017.


  • Chief Gina Hawkins, Fayetteville (NC) Police Department
  • Chief Roxana Kennedy, Chula Vista (CA) Police Department
  • Sheriff Rosie Rivera, Salt Lake County (UT) Sheriff’s Office
  • Sonya K. Chavez, U.S. Marshals Service (NM)
  • Chief Jill Lees, IUPD-Bloomington (IN)


Paula Balafas

Paula Balafas

National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives


Kathy O’Toole

Kathy O’Toole

First female commissioner of the Boston (MA) Police Department, first Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate, and Chief of the Seattle (WA) Police Department from 2014 to 2017


Chief Gina Hawkins

Chief Gina Hawkins

Chief Gina Hawkins
Fayetteville (NC) Police Department

Chief Gina V. Hawkins joined the Fayetteville Police Department in August of 2017 after nearly 29 years of experience in law enforcement. Chief Hawkins has molded her career and life by serving the people within in the community and the people with whom she works.

Chief Hawkins started her career in 1988 with the City of Atlanta police department. While at the City of Atlanta Police Department, Chief Hawkins worked in the Patrol, Crime Analysis, Investigations and Internal Affairs divisions. She retired as an Assistant Zone Commander from the Atlanta Police Department in 2006 and went on to assist the newly formed police department in the City of Sandy Springs, Georgia as a Commander–which was formed on July 1, 2006. Chief Hawkins was instrumental in establishing an efficient, forward thinking police department and commanded units including Patrol, Internal Affairs, and Administrative Services. In 2013, Chief Hawkins joined the Clayton County Police Department as a Deputy Chief of Police where she presided at different times over both the Operational Command and the Support Service Command of the department. This provided her the experience of commanding every aspect of the Clayton County Police Department.

Chief Hawkins attended North Carolina Central University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Georgia State University and a Master’s of Science in Management degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is a graduate of the F.B.I. National Associates Academy (Class 252) and was chosen to be a delegate in the prestigious 23rd Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) where she travelled to Israel with other law enforcement executives to study and evaluate the Israeli Police Force. She presently serves on the GILEE Advisory Board. Chief Hawkins is the 2020 National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executive – Women Law Enforcement Executive of the Year.

Chief Roxana Kennedy

Chief Roxana Kennedy

Chief Roxana Kennedy
Chula Vista (CA) Police Department

On December 30, 2016, Roxana Kennedy was appointed as the City of Chula Vista’s 24th Chief of Police. Chief Kennedy began her law enforcement career in 1992 after graduating from the Southwestern College Police Academy. She rose through the ranks to become the first female Chief of Police for the City of Chula Vista.

As an Officer, Chief Kennedy established a reputation for an outstanding work ethic, professionalism, commitment to the community, and dedication to the job. Her passion for police work and providing the highest quality of service to the community quickly propelled her through the ranks to become Chula Vista’s first female Police Lieutenant and then in 2013, Police Captain.

During Chief Kennedy’s career, she managed the Patrol Operations Division which is the largest division in the police department and is composed of 67 percent of all sworn personnel. Chief Kennedy oversaw Patrol, Traffic, School Resource Officers, Street Team and Gang Suppression Unit, Community Policing Unit, Community Relations and Crime Analysis. In addition, the Patrol Division also includes canine units, Senior Volunteer Patrol, the Reserve Unit, Crisis Negotiations, SWAT, Mobile Field Force, bilingual services, and mental health assistance in coordination with the Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams (PERT).

Chief Kennedy has worked various assignments throughout her career including Patrol Officer, Street Team Officer, Field Agent, Background Investigator, Patrol Sergeant, Street Team Sergeant, Watch Commander, Geographic Policing District Commander, and Investigative Division Lieutenant. During her career, she served on both the Crisis Negotiation Team and the Mobile Field Force Unit for 22 years, including 12 years as the Unit Commander for each team. In addition, Kennedy directed a very active Wellness/Peer Support Team for the Department.

Under Chief Kennedy’s leadership, Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) has adopted an innovation initiative focused on using technology to enhance community safety, increase situational awareness and officer safety, and reduce response times. Chula Vista Police Department is proud to be the first and only police department to work under the Federal Aviation Administration’s UAS Integrated Pilot Program “Drone as a First Responder (DFR)” concept which provides real-time data to officers and supervisors allowing officers to make better tactical decisions in the field providing safer outcomes for all parties involved. Chief Kennedy’s goal is sharing our story with our law enforcement partners nationally and internationally to help standardize and expand to any agency interested in the benefits. CVPD is also leading another pilot project called Live911. Live911 allows the officers in the field to hear incoming 911 calls and respond before critical calls are processed and dispatched.

Sheriff Rosie Rivera

Sheriff Rosie Rivera

Sheriff Rosie Rivera
Salt Lake County (UT) Sheriff’s Office

Sheriff Rosie Rivera was sworn in as Sheriff of Salt Lake County on August 15, 2017, and is the first female Sheriff elected in the State of Utah. Sheriff¬Rivera began her career in law enforcement in 1993. She ascended the ranks through officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant, deputy chief, and on to sheriff. Sheriff Rivera is the mother of three adult children and grandmother to six beautiful grandchildren. Sheriff Rivera has served in many capacities during her tenure in law enforcement to include patrol, community policing, gang detective, investigations, narcotics, administration, public information and department spokesperson. She has served on a number of boards throughout the years, currently she serves on the Salt Lake County Opioid Task Force, Salt Lake County Advisory Board for the Family Justice Center, Salt Lake Area Gang Project Governing Board, Metro Narcotics Task Force Advisory Board and she is past Chair of the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee for Salt Lake County.

Sheriff Rivera oversees the largest jail in the state of Utah, the largest Court Security Bureau in the state of Utah and she is the CEO over the Uni-ed Police Department of Greater Salt Lake. Sheriff Rivera is known for her role in addressing the overcrowding in the jail by seeking out and supporting alternatives to incarceration. She supports drug and mental health treatment as well as prevention programs. Sheriff Rivera has advocated for victims and survivors of domestic violence for most of her career in Law Enforcement and is still actively mentoring gang involved youth. Sheriff Rivera has received many awards throughout her career and specifically while Sheriff, she was awarded the 2018 Tonahuac Award, 2018 Ignacio Zaragoz Award, 2018 Sundance Women in Leadership Award, 2019 American Society of Public Administration Distinguished Service Award, 2019 YWCA Outstanding Achievement Award for Public Service and the 2020 Rosa Parks Award. Sheriff Rivera believes in transparency in law enforcement as well as justice for all. She is passionate about finding alternatives to incarceration by supporting programs such as drug addiction treatment, mental health treatment and additional housing for the homeless. As Sheriff she has put these passions into action by building a more diverse team, bringing in Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) to the jail, supporting and implementing pre-trial release programs, and creating a transparent and fiscally responsible approach to the budget process. She continues to work with community members, activists, and others to continually improve law enforcement operations in Salt Lake County.

United States Marshal Sonya K. Chavez

United States Marshal Sonya K. Chavez

United States Marshal Sonya K. Chavez
U.S. Marshals Service – District of New Mexico

Sonya K. Chavez was sworn in as New Mexico’s United States Marshal in April 2018. Her appointment makes her New Mexico’s first female to serve as U.S. Marshal. Marshal Chavez is responsible for oversight of one of the Marshal Service’s largest Districts, and one which makes up the Southwest Border Region. Shortly after being appointed as U.S. Marshal, she was asked to serve on the Judiciary’s Committee on Southwest Border matters, and in September 2019 was appointed to the U.S. Marshals Advisory Council.

Marshal Chavez spent 22 years as a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). She joined the FBI in April 1996 and was assigned to the Chicago Division, where she was a member of the Division’s Joint Task Force on Gangs. She developed multiple complex investigations targeting some of the largest and most violent street gangs in the country and spent the majority of her Bureau career targeting the operation of criminal street gangs in the United States. Marshal Chavez has participated in the arrest of some of the most violent gang members and drug distributors during her tenure with the FBI. She has been recognized by the FBI, and by state and local law enforcement and professional associations for her investigative work. In December 2006, Marshal Chavez received a transfer to the FBI’s Albuquerque Division and initiated the FBI’s Safe Streets High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Gang Task Force, adding Albuquerque as an active participant in the FBI’s national gang initiative. She was the Division’s Undercover Program Coordinator and was a member of the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Team in both Chicago and Albuquerque. Marshal Chavez has been qualified as a subject matter expert by the Federal Court in the Northern District of Illinois and in the District of New Mexico in the area of criminal enterprises and their communication and drug transportation methods.

Prior to joining the FBI, Marshal Chavez worked as a television news reporter and anchor for CBS and NBC news affiliates. She was the director of marketing at the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce and was press aide and spokeswoman for then-New Mexico Governor Bruce King during his last administration.

Marshal Chavez received a bachelor of arts degree in journalism and mass communication from New Mexico State University. She earned a master of public administration degree from the University of New Mexico (UNM) and has completed post graduate work in intercultural communication at UNM.

Chief Jill Lees

Chief Jill Lees

Chief Jill Lees
IUPD-Bloomington (IN)

Originally from Hammond, IN, Chief Lees graduated from Indiana University in 1995 with a degree in Criminal Justice. During her time as a Hoosier, she worked as a part-time campus police officer and attended the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Bloomington during the summer of 1994. She was sworn in as a Plainfield Police Officer on May 15, 1995, National Peace Officers Memorial Day.

In 2004, she was promoted to Support Services Sergeant and was also placed in charge of the Evidence Technician and Community Support Officers. In December 2006, she graduated IUPUI with a Graduate Certificate in Public Management. In June 2007, she was promoted to Support Services Lieutenant and was named the Department’s CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) Accreditation Manager and supervisor for the Juvenile Programs Officer, Records, and Traffic sections.

In December 2012, Lees was promoted to Captain of the Support Services Division. She continued to be the Accreditation Manager for the Plainfield Police Department and also worked off-duty as a CALEA Assessor. In 2017, CALEA promoted her to Team Leader. In August 2018, Lees was appointed as the Deputy Chief of Support over the Investigations and Support Branches of the Department.

Lees is a graduate of Leadership Hendricks County, Class of 2013, and also attended the Public Service Leadership Institute Leadership Development Course in 2014.

During her 23 year career at the Plainfield Police Department Lees has served as a DARE Officer, Department Instructor/Field Training Officer, Bicycle Patrol Officer, School Resource Officer, Explorer Post Leader, Hostage Negotiator, Chaplain, Public Information Officer, Child Safety Seat Technician, CALEA Accreditation Manager, R.A.D. Instructor, and Crime Watch Coordinator.

While serving the Plainfield Police Department, she received numerous awards from within the Department and also from the Plainfield Community including the Van Buren Elm awarded in 2019 which is the Town of Plainfield’s highest honor.

Chief Lees retired from the Plainfield Police Department on March 1st, 2019, and started as the Chief of Police of the Indiana University Police Department Bloomington Division on March 4th, 2019.

Chief Lees graduated from the FBI National Academy Session #279 on March 13, 2020.

She also was selected in June 2020 to be a member of the Distinguished Alumni Council for the Indiana University Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Chief Lees was just selected at the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis as an Elite 50 award recipient and will be honored on April 6, 2021. The Elite 50 award honors fifty graduate and professional students each year who demonstrate excellence beyond the classroom in areas such as campus leadership, scholarly work, and community engagement.

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