Number of sworn female officers in local police departments:
Clark County Sheriff’s Office, 8
Vancouver Police Department, 23
Camas Police Department, 3
Washougal Police Department, 1
It’s cool to be girl. It’s even cooler to be a girl cop.
That was the message the Vancouver Police Department was trying to spread at its first, “Girl Cops are Awesome,” event on Sept. 9. Held at the east precinct, it featured opportunities for youth that ranged from exploring a patrol car and a SWAT vehicle, to talking to recruiters about law enforcement careers and chatting with female officers.
Patrol Officer Katie Endresen has been the VPD for 1.5 years.
“I always wanted to be a cop,” she said. “It runs in the family.”
She gestured toward the crowd, “This is just an awesome event. If they had this when I was that age, I would have been head-over-heels.”
Girl Cops are Awesome was inspired by Camas resident Kinley Goertler. The 4-year-old was shopping at Costco with mom Chelsy a few weeks ago and spotted a SWAT officer Halloween costume. At first she was excited, but then noticed that it appeared to be geared towards boys.
“I told her that she could still wear it and that girls could be cops or whatever else they wanted to be,” Chelsy said.
But Kinley was still bothered that the packaging featured only boys.
“When we got home, I posted a little rant about the experience on Facebook, figuring our friends and family would offer some support,” Chelsy said. “The Portland police responded to my post with a photo that said, ‘Girl Cops are Awesome!’ I thought that was cool, and would be the end of it.”
Two weeks later, Kinley has received photos and patches from female police officers in five different countries. She and her mom have also been interviewed by several different media outlets.
Kinley seems to take it all in stride. During the event, she spent much of her time exploring inside a SWAT vehicle.
“I want to be an officer when I grow up,” she said. “I like all of this.”
Kinley also enjoys receiving the patches and photos from different female officers.
“I am not sure if she understands the scope of this, but she knows what is going on and she loves it,” Chelsy said. “Her favorite part has been getting the patches from different police departments in the mail.”
She added that it is nice to see the police receive good publicity.
“I am glad we have been able to help and spread that message of positivity,” she said. “It’s been great to be a part of this.”
Michael Peltier, Chelsy’s friend, brought her 4-year-old, Mason, along to accompany Kinley. The two children are best friends.
“He thought it was really cool to see Kinley on the news,” she said. “She is such a fun kid, we weren’t surprised something like this happened for her. This is a really neat event.”
On Wednesday, VPD Officer Mary Jane Long stood near her patrol car, while kids of all ages explored inside the vehicle.
“It’s nice for them to be able to interact with female officers, and it’s also fun for me,” she said. “I love seeing all the kids with siblings and their excitement around law enforcement. It is also great for them to see all the tools we use as police officers. It’s nice to have the opportunity for positive interactions.”
Don Swanson, of Washougal, attended with his son, Torbjorn, 4, and family friend Kristy Romito and her 5-year-old son, Robert.
“I think this is wonderful,” he said. “The kids get exposed to police at an early age and learn there is nothing to be fearful of.”
Added Romito, “I think this is awesome, especially for young girls to see. They have so many opportunities open to them now.”
VDP Patrol Officer Danielle Wass noted that it is important for girls to understand that law enforcement is a viable career for women.
“We are here,” she said. “We are working hard and it’s a team effort.”