RICHMOND — Allison O’Connor is preparing for her second night on the Richmond Police Department. The town’s newest patrolman — and only the second woman ever to work on the force — is working the second shift, from 3 to 11 p.m. She’ll be riding with another patrolman for her first two work periods, or rotations.
On her first night, she was given a tour of the town by Cpl. William Litterio.
“I enjoyed it immensely,” she said, smiling broadly. “We drove around and he showed me the town, and I got to know the borders.”
O’Connor, 26, grew up in Narragansett and now lives in Coventry. Her first job was at Brown University, where she was a patrolman from 2011 to just a few days ago.
“We catered to the faculty, the staff and the students,” she said. “We did deal with people in the city, but our main focus was the students. Here, my main focus is going to be the town and keeping the residents of the town safe.”
Richmond Police Chief Elwood Johnson described O’Connor as one of the hiring committee’s top three candidates. By the second interview, he said knew she was the right person for the job.
“To me, she embodies the potential of a great community police officer. Anything you can do to show the public that police officers are worth of trust, you do it,” he said.
Town Administrator Robert Rock was on the committee that conducted O’Connor’s second interview.
“It is great to have Officer O’Connor on board,” he said. “As only the second female officer in the town’s history, she will be a great asset to an already stellar department.”
Men still vastly outnumber women in local police departments. Westerly currently has the greatest number of women police officers.
“At the present time, we have three, for the first time in the history of the department,” said Police Chief Edward St. Clair.
Kristin Kyhos joined the force in 2005, Amanda Rinn started in 2011, and Alison Ruisi joined in 2013.
Neither Hopkinton nor Charlestown currently has any women on its force. In Hopkinton, Melinda Clarke worked as a patrol officer from 2002 to 2006. Charlestown also had one woman, Jennifer Manning, in the department 20 years ago.
O’Connor said she decided to enter law enforcement so she could do something meaningful with her life.
“When I get old and gray, I want to look back on my life and know I’ve made some type of difference in a community. That’s really what kind of steered me in this direction,” she said.
On one of the hottest days of the summer, she is wearing stifling body armor under a new uniform that could use some breaking in. She can’t wait to get out on patrol and start getting to know the people of the town she wanted to work in.
“I was looking for the small town. I was looking for a department that would make me feel welcome, and I found that here in Richmond,” she said.
When she’s not working, O’Connor heads for the woods to hike with her German shepherd.
“I like being spontaneous and doing adrenaline things, but I’m considered laid back,” she said. “I love taking my dog hiking. When I get her hiking bag out, she hears her bell and she’s ready to go.”
O’Connor concedes that more than a male officer, she will need to earn the respect of her fellow police officers and the residents of the town. She’s looking forward to the challenge. “As females, we have to prove ourselves,” she said. “We have to prove that we can do the job just as well as anyone else. Some people look at you and say ‘You’re just a girl,’ so you have to put on that professional, tough face and prove to them ‘I’m a patrolman and I’m here to help you.’”