By Robert Stakem, executive director of the Senator John J. Shumaker Public Safety Center at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College.
Published by Harrisburg Magazine, March 2, 2023
Editor’s note: Public safety professionals often hold informal discussions on the back bumper or tailboard of an ambulance or fire truck. Hence, the column’s tagline, “Tailboard Talk.”
Since 1981, March has been recognized as Women’s History Month. In honor of this annual observance, HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, recognizes some influential women in law enforcement.
According to the National Institute of Justice, women account for less than 13% of law enforcement officers in the United States. An even smaller percentage serve in leadership positions within the departments. Leading the fourth largest police department in the nation, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw is the first Black woman to lead the Philadelphia Police Department.
Closer to Harrisburg, other women are serving our communities and leading police departments. Among those women are Cindy Shirk, Alisha Graybill and Christina Day.
Cindy Shirk began her law enforcement career in Lancaster County in 1980. After 24 years, Shirk continued to serve the law enforcement community by becoming a certified instructor. She came to HACC and served as a law enforcement coordinator.
Although she retired from this position in 2021 after 15 years of service, she continues to teach and mentor new police cadets.
As Spring Garden Township Police Department’s first female officer, Sergeant Alisha Graybill was hired in 2000 as a patrol officer after graduating from HACC’s 78th Municipal Police Academy. Recognizing the lack of female officers in the field, she was drawn to the prospect of new challenges and opportunities to make a difference every day.
She has served her community as a member of the York County forensic team, a field training officer and critical incident stress management peer. Graybill was promoted to sergeant in 2020 and serves as the patrol supervisor, field training coordinator and department forensic unit supervisor. While the majority of cadets in HACC’s police academy are male, Graybill wants women “to understand that they are capable of succeeding at this career.”
Christina Day is the 2022 recipient of the PNC Social Justice Scholarship, which provides a full-ride scholarship for Black students enrolled in HACC’s Police Academy or Emergency
Medical Technician (EMT) Program.
Day graduated Dec. 12, 2022, from HACC’s 121st Municipal Police Academy. She is currently in the hiring process for a local police department. When asked why she wanted to become a police officer, in addition to helping people, Day said, “An even bigger reason is that I want to start a legacy. No one in my family is an officer; a majority of them just got by with jobs they hated just to see retirement. I want my kids to see it's OK to find a career you love that they can be proud of. Most importantly, I wanted to be proud of myself and for my family to be proud of me. I know being an officer requires duty, honor and integrity. I feel as though I bring that and more to the big table of law enforcement."
These three women have defied norms and helped change the makeup of law enforcement for the better. Many police departments are actively recruiting for new officers. Are you interested in joining these women to make a difference in our communities?