For women finding the balance between societal expectations of women, especially those working in nontraditional jobs, remains a challenge.
A nontraditional work role, by gender, is defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as one in which “fewer than 25% of the workers in that field are made up of that gender.” Low percentages of women are commonplace in science, technology, engineering and math, as well as hands-on skilled trades. Over 100 occupations fall into the non-traditional category for women, including police officer.
It was more than a century ago that the first female professional police officer was appointed in the Chicago Police Department in 1891. Still today women hold only 12 percent of police jobs (2018).
Northern Virginia has many examples of women who have successfully navigated the demands of the non-traditional professions, while maintaining supportive and loving personal family relationships.
Meet Captain Lori LaBarca, currently commander of Fairfax County’s Mason District police station. LaBarca has held various command positions within the county police department at the station command level and for the animal protection police unit. Married six-and-a-half years now, she waited to marry until a bit later in life, as many professional women do. She met her husband, who is now a retired police officer, at work. They were friends for several years before romance blossomed. She describes them “as two home bodies”. So Valentine’s Day will likely be cards and flowers. There also will be chocolate; LaBarca loves chocolate. But no extravagant gifts. They may go out to dinner after the crowds of Valentine’s Day are gone, as a less stressful option than dining out on that day. She cooks for the two often, which she enjoys; he washes her car. They enjoy the relaxation of cross country road trips together.
Her tip for a successful relationship? “Pick your battles.”, she says. “Getting married later in life, we are both set in our ways, so we do things differently. But there’s enough stress at work. If I fold clothes one way, and he folds them another, I’m just glad he folds them.”
Meet Chief Erin Schaible, Police Chief for the City of Fairfax Police Department, who is observing the fourth anniversary of her appointment to the position in February 2019. She comes from a family background in law enforcement, after her own brief stint after college in New York City’s fashion industry. Most recently she had served as deputy chief of patrol in the Fairfax County Police Department, before becoming Fairfax City’s first female chief.
She will soon celebrate her 24th wedding anniversary. She’s married to a retired Fairfax County police officer; a former captain with the SWAT team. They met as young officers on different shifts at the Mason District Station. They usually celebrate Valentine’s Day in a quiet way. She praises him as a “great cook who is wonderful with flavors.” She particularly enjoys his steak with mushrooms, and his potato pancakes, but enjoys having him surprise her with new recipes.
Her tip for a successful relationship? “Being patient and trying your best to communicate. To take a step back [during disagreements] in case one’s had a bad day; especially important in law enforcement.”
Meet the first woman to lead the Fairfax County Sheriff’s office in its 280 year history, Sheriff Stacey Kincaid. An elected official, Kincaid first won the seat to fill a partial term and has been reelected to two four-year terms since, in 2015 and 2019. She is planning to run for re-election this November. A 35 year veteran of the force, she joined the department as a Deputy after college, rising to the rank of captain before her election to Sheriff in 2013. During her tenure, she spearheaded adoption of the county’s Diversion First initiative to offer alternatives to incarceration for low level offenses, to individuals with mental illness or developmental disabilities. A program Kincaid started in 2018, called Striving to Achieve Recovery (STAR), allows those in jail, with addiction, access to a peer-led therapeutic community to affect recovery.
Kincaid has been married for 19 years. She met her husband in jail. That statement begs further explanation. Now a captain in the Virginia State Police, her now husband was a sergeant when they met as she worked the jail’s booking desk. He drew her attention as she noticed the handsome sergeant entering to log an arrest. They talked and he would eventually ask her out for Valentine’s Day. It took some time as they got to know each other, and as he helped her to care for her ailing mother. Eventually, she married him as her best friend, she said, “knowing we could be together through thick and thin, and not get tired of each other.”
Kincaid explained for them, Valentine’s Day will be “a very nice dinner out; doing something special, although every day is a celebration.” She describes her husband “as a card guy since day one; he picks the best, and gets flowers.” He’s been supportive of her plunge into painting, started during COVID 19 isolation. He hung Kincaid’s first painting, titled “Guardian Angel” in his office.
Her tip for a successful relationship, “be true to yourself, marry someone who treats his mother well, and who you can trust; who you’d enjoy growing old with, who you can collaborate with, and always find common ground when you disagree.”
All three of these successful officers credit organizations such as the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE), Mid-Atlantic Association of Women in Law Enforcement (MAAWLE), and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) with promoting the ideals and principles of women executives in law enforcement. Their missions to educate and train aspiring women, in leadership, management, and administration; and to encourage women in the field and foster effective law enforcement, is helping to build the percentage of women choosing the law enforcement field.
Women and men with interest in pursuing a career in Fairfax County law enforcement can find information on available jobs at JoinFCPD@fairfaxcounty.gov. FCPD is currently hiring for the 2023 police academy with a starting base salary of $56,697, plus a $15,000 sign-on bonus.
For information about deputy sheriff hiring, see https://fcsocareers.org.; beginning salaries $55,323 - $70,607 with $15,000 hiring bonus.
For information about City of Fairfax law enforcement hiring, see https://www.fairfaxva.gov/government/police/our-department/career-opportunities; starting salary range: $63,196.00 - $106,187.00.