(Photo courtesy of Lauren Lee)
Orange County School of the Arts

Column: My experience being a part of the Fullerton police explorers

Just one more. Just one more push-up. I scream in my head but my body does not cooperate.

“Lee, is that really all that you’ve got? What a way to represent your department,” I hear the officer yelling at me.

Mustering up every little ounce of energy and determination I had left, I finally pushed my body up from the ground. 

Growing up, I had many aspirations. Some would be influenced by movies and characters while others would be found through the people I met in my life. I wanted to be a singer just like Barbie, then I was dreaming about being on the moon. My dreams and goals changed frequently, there was just so much I wanted to experience in life.

Then one day, I thought, “Hey, why don’t I try out law enforcement?” So right away, I researched nearby police stations for explorer programs and made some phone calls. I chose to attend my first Police Explorer meeting at the Fullerton police station, where I found my calling.

Stereotypically, jobs in the police forces and the military are seen as too strenuous for women. The overall gender distribution in 2018 of the police forces was 12.6% female officers, while in the military, 16.5% were female active-duty members, according to Statista.

Although many issues involving gender roles have been resolved, the stigma of women’s presence in these career fields has not completely dissipated. 

Many women in law enforcement and the military report there being instances of sexism and sexual harassment in the workforce. Many times, women find themselves on assignments that are considered to be more “feminine,” such as issues concerning other women and children.

Additionally, their male counterparts find it difficult to trust them with tasks due to the stereotype that deems women to be physically unfit for the job. A study published by CSU San Bernardino revealed that about 50% to 75% of women in law enforcement have been subjected to sexual harassment and sexism in the workforce.

Despite these challenges, women continue to work hard to not only prove themselves but also to solidify her role and spot in law enforcement.

Knowing these percentages and the stereotypes, I was initially afraid to join the Fullerton Police Explorers program. I was often intimidated when the officers would yell at me and I could not see myself thriving in the harsh environment of law enforcement.

However, I came to a realization that the officers were not being hard on me for their own benefit, but they were doing it to help me grow a thicker skin towards the intense training and drills. Eventually, I found myself facing the challenges that I once thought were too difficult or too frightening with a positive and confident attitude. 

Being a small, 5-foot girl, I would have never imagined that I would find a family in law enforcement at the Fullerton Police Explorers.

Joining the program, I was timid and shy, often feeling powerless due to my small build. However, after spending over a year with the team, I have found myself growing stronger both physically and mentally.

The lessons that I learned from the seemingly endless hours of hard training have made me a better person, and that is why I continue to broadcast my positive, difficult, challenging, but most importantly, empowering experience as a woman in a “man’s world.”