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Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 3:54 a.m.
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Breaking the ceiling

Russellville’s only female police officer ‘just one of the guys’

By Tammy Keith

This article was published February 6, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

tammy-marcoe-30-said-she-became-interested-in-law-enforcement-when-she-worked-at-the-pope-county-911office-of-emergency-management-marcoe-joined-the-russellville-police-department-two-years-ago-in-april-and-is-its-only-female-officer

Tammy Marcoe, 30, said she became interested in law enforcement when she worked at the Pope County 911/Office of Emergency Management. Marcoe joined the Russellville Police Department two years ago in April and is its only female officer.

Tammy Marcoe was late for a telephone interview with the newspaper, but that’s what happens when you’re a police officer — duty calls.

That morning’s situation? “People stealing stuff,” she said.

Marcoe, who turned 30 in January, is the only female officer in the Russellville Police Department.

“Originally, they handle you with kid gloves,” she said. “Then once they get to know you, you’re just one of the guys.”

Marcoe grew up in Russellville with two older sisters and a younger brother.

She was driven from the start.

“I actually got my first job at 14, so I started working and making money,” she said, which didn’t leave much time for extracurricular activities.

She waited tables and still graduated with above a 3.5 grade-point average in 2002.

Marcoe joined the Army National Guard when she was 17, “because my dad told me not to,” she said. “It was not the female thing to do, so I joined the next day with my mom’s signature.

“Some people have that old-school mentality.”

Her father’s attitude has changed, she said.

“My parents worry, but they’re proud of me for what I’m doing, and they respect it,” she said.

Marcoe went to San Antonio, Texas, after high school and completed her Army training as a medic.

She took some mundane jobs for a while — worked at a dry cleaners and waited tables again.

Although she started nursing school, she decided to go down a different road.

“I started working at Pope County 911 in 2004 as a dispatcher, and that made me know what actually goes on in the town I live in, and that got me hooked,” she said.

In 2006-2007, she was deployed to Iraq with the National Guard.

“It was an experience,” Marcoe said matter-of-factly. “I think everyone should go through it once; it makes you not take things for granted and be thankful for what you have.

“Stateside, you don’t necessarily have to worry about being blown up on a daily basis.

“All we did is drive around and look for bombs every day. I was lucky enough that I did not have to treat too many injuries. It was more Iraqi civilians.

“Also, in Iraq, you don’t have running water. You have to be careful not to drink the water because you’ll get dysentery.”

Marcoe got a job in 2008 with the Paragould Police Department in northeast Arkansas, first as a dispatcher, then on patrol.

She graduated from the Law Enforcement Training Academy in Pocahontas in 2009.

Marcoe said she was always on the 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. shift, which she didn’t mind.

She was one of two females working on the Paragould force; the other was a detective.

“It’s a great department to work for — great people,” Marcoe said. “I was just ready to come home.”

Marcoe tested in October 2011 and started April 9, 2012, in the Russellville department.

“It’s a great department to work for. The shift I work on (C shift), there’s great teamwork, and we motivate each other,” she said.

Every 28 days, the officers rotate 12-hour shifts.

“Rotating makes you not get complacent,” she said.

“There are always lots of thefts, drug users. I’m a certified drug-recognition expert. I’m trained to do an evaluation on people who have been driving and might be under the influence of drugs,” she said.

It takes about an hour to determine, she said, and if the tests are positive, the suspects are charged with driving while under the influence of drugs.

Marcoe said she will soon be certified as a drug-recognition instructor.

Some people treat her differently because she’s a female, she said.

“When I first started, … I would get to a call and be talking to someone, and a fellow male officer would be there, and [the suspect] would immediately direct their attention to them,” she said. “I had to learn how to demand that attention and demand that respect through personality and how I carry myself.”

Guys often flirt with her when she’s on a call and make inappropriate comments, she said.

“When I was at Paragould, I arrested one for DWI, and he wanted to yell at me and tell me he wanted to talk to the ‘real police,’ and I wasn’t because I was a girl,” she said.

However, he was “very intoxicated.”

“In general, I don’t have too much of a problem,” she said.

Marcoe is engaged to a law-enforcement officer, too, so she won’t get away from it at home, either.

“Even when you’re off duty, you’re paying attention to your surroundings, and your head’s on pivot,” she said.

Marcoe said she hasn’t gotten in many physical altercations, but it’s the women who want to fight her more than the men.

She said that in general, women give her “more attitude” than men, “maybe because they see me as an equal,” she said.

Drew Latch, public information officer for the Russellville Police Department, said Marcoe is an asset to the department.

He said she “has a whole different perspective than a male officer.”

“She looks a little more in-depth, or maybe she looks into things a little more than our male officers,” Latch said. “She’d never say that.

“It’s great having her, and the shift loves having her.”

Latch said Marcoe has helped with the summer Youth Police Academy several times.

“You can tell the kids are very receptive to her, especially the females,” he said. Those students often ask questions of her that they may not other officers, he said. “They are interested in what she has to say. It’s a great opportunity to have her on the force during those situations.

“I really think it opens up the eyes of some of those girls who are going through. Basically, it gives them the view that this glass ceiling has been busted, and they can be an officer if they want to.”

Marcoe said she enjoys interacting with the kids.

“Especially, small girls come up and say, ‘Can I have a picture with you? Can I hug you? Is it hard being a female police officer?’”

Marcoe said her suggestion for students who want to become police officers is to understand that it’s not just what they see on TV.

“I would suggest that they do a ride-along with a department if they can, or research it. They need to realize what they’re getting into before they do it, and realize it’s for them.”

Marcoe said being a police officer is definitely the job for her.

She said she plans to finish her degree in criminal justice this summer at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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