By Becky Holland, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASKOM – Nikki Gillard, Crime Scene Officer for the Marshall Police Department, grew up in the family-oriented community of Waskom. The mother one son, Gillard attended Waskom High School and graduated from the East Texas Police Academy in Kilgore.
Gillard, 31, who is engaged to be married, is also the co-coordinator for the Marshall-Harrison County Crime Stoppers. Though she has been with the Marshall Police Department for nine years, the first four were served as a dispatcher.
“I did not grow up wanting to pursue a career in law enforcement, but I did want a career that helped people and made a difference. I started the MPD as a dispatcher, and soon after I knew my calling. I belonged on the other side of the radio … chasing calls, taking reports, working traffic control and telling myself that if I could make a difference in one life, all the work would be worth it,” Gillard said.
“My parents and grandparents have always been my inspiration. They instilled a great work ethic in me, and taught me that anything worth doing is worth doing right. They also taught me sacrifice, which I feel has made me both a better police officer and a better parent,” she reflected.
Law enforcement has garnered much attention as of late as a career, especially with the recent attacks – sometimes deadly attacks on officers and deputies.
When asked about her family’s thoughts about her entering the other side of the law enforcement career, Gillard said, “My family worried for my safety, like I believe every family does.”
She said, “I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t worry about their child, male or female, strapping on a vest, badge, and gun and going out on patrol. There’s a very real possibility that we may not make it home, but my parents knew how they raised me and how tenacious I am. Once I set my mind on something there is no stopping me.”
Of her job, Gillard said, “I enjoy it. The people I work with are all like my brothers and sisters. Sure, there are times we don’t always get along, but that’s going to happen when you have so many different personalities working together.”
Gilllard stated that being a female in a male-dominated field does have some expectations. “It means that you are going to have to prove that you can handle your own more than a man usually will. If you get out on the streets and act like you’re afraid of getting dirty or of a physical confrontation, your co-workers are going to believe they have to constantly look out for you and that is when you become a liability to your shift and your department,” she said.
If she had to give advice to any female looking into entering a law enforcement career, Gillard said, “I would say, ‘Go for it.’ If you feel that becoming an officer is what you truly want to do, and that it is the career path you want to take, don’t let anyone tell you differently.”
She added, “I believe it takes a special person to do this kind of work and be successful at it, but it also takes many different kinds of people and personalities. Everyone has different strengths.”
“In my opinion, women tend to have better interpersonal skills that help us communicate more effectively. So, where a male officer may need to become physical with someone in a situation, many times women can talk through it, and leave a physical altercation as a last resort,” Gillard said reflecting on the different qualities male and female police officers have that help them succeed on the job.
“I’ve learned that I am so much stronger and more capable than I ever gave myself credit for. I have been with people/families on the worst days of their lives. I’ve let people cry on my shoulder or even scream at me over the loss of a loved one,” Gillard said, continuing, “I’ve done CPR on a young teen that collapsed and then left to go take a routine call, all without missing a beat. I have seen and experienced things most people will never see or experience in their lifetimes, and that most hope not to.”
She said, “That’s part of the job. Ask any officer that’s been doing this for any amount of time and they will be able to tell you something similar.”
Gillard continued, “Many people believe that police officers only care about writing traffic tickets and taking people to jail. That is false. I’m not saying there aren’t officers out there that care about only those things, but a vast majority of officers truly believe they can make a difference in their communities.”
“Writing that traffic citation may make people think more about their driving habits and save a life … making that arrest may make our streets a little bit safer … We also want people to know that we are there when they need us; we are there for them to voice their concerns to about happenings in the community, no matter how big or how small,” she concluded.