Spring is here, with a sense of renewal and new possibilities. It’s the perfect time to start fresh, set new goals, and embrace change. This month of May, we are excited as we celebrate a Change Agent making a real difference. Seeing someone so dedicated to making a positive impact is inspiring, and we’re all grateful for their hard work and commitment. Let’s take a moment to recognize and honor this unique individual and continue to spread their message of hope and possibility.
Mrs. Mary Durham is an incredible individual who has significantly impacted the Turks and Caicos Islands community. She served for forty-two years as a police officer and demonstrated an unyielding commitment to safeguarding and helping her fellow citizens. Even though she is now retired from the force, she continues to inspire and empower people through her work in church ministry. Her selflessness has earned her recognition in the GEEMS Limelight, which is well-deserved. Mrs. Durham’s positive impact on the lives of many is undeniable, and we are grateful for her dedication and service to the community of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In this interview, Mrs. Durham shares why she joined the police force and her perspective on working as a police officer. The gratification, fulfillment, the highs, and the lows.
“To give service, you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that thing is sincerity and integrity,” as Douglas Adams once said. These words have always resonated with me, so I decided to join the police force. It wasn’t just a job for me; it was a calling. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, which I am truly grateful for. It’s been a challenging yet rewarding experience, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.’ – Mary Durham
Sergeant in charge of South Caicos Police Station
B.H: How has the representation and experiences of women in policing changed in the past 30 years?
Mrs. Durham: It’s interesting to see how the representation and experiences of women in policing have evolved over the past 30 years. Although progress has been made in breaking down barriers and increasing representation, the percentage of women in Law Enforcement still needs to be higher. Women comprise less than 13% of total officers and an even smaller proportion of leadership positions. Unfortunately, there are still disparities across performance, recruitment, promotion, and retention, driven by negative aspects of policing cultures. However, since 1977, the organization has been slowly moving towards equality and equity. Achieving true equality will require significant effort, dedication, partnership, and transformational leadership with a different mindset toward women. Having female leadership could facilitate this change, as the police force has never had female leadership since its inception.
B.H: What barriers do women in policing face? How do these barriers compare to barriers women face in other professions?
Mrs. Durham: With my experience as a woman in policing, I know firsthand the many barriers we often face. Disrespect and discrimination are unfortunately all too common, but one of the biggest hurdles is promotion. Although there have been some positive changes in recent years, it’s still an uphill battle. Reporting sexual harassment can also be a considerable obstacle to upward mobility, leaving us feeling disenfranchised. To cope with these challenges, many of us have developed a different mindset – one of tolerance and even resignation. We often fear speaking out for fear of retribution or further victimization. It’s hard to say how these barriers compare to those faced by women in other professions since I’ve never worked in any other field. But one thing is clear – we still have a long way to go before women in policing are genuinely treated as equals.
This was 1977. I was 18 and just joined the Constabulary
B.H: Why did you join the police force and how many years were you an officer?
Mrs. Durham: When I was younger, I always wanted to serve my country in some capacity. However, it was when my mother joined the Police Force that I began considering Law Enforcement as a potential career path. While I was eager to serve, being a Prosecutor in the Criminal Justice System was always my dream.
In 1977, I took the plunge and joined Law Enforcement. Little did I know that it would become such a significant part of my life, to the point where I still feel like I’m on the Job! It’s funny how that works. When I first started, there were only three female officers, but I’m happy to see that number has grown significantly over the years.
As a Constable, I began my career as a Beat and Patrol Officer at the Constabulary, earning $175.00 monthly. Years later, the name has changed from the Constabulary to the Royal Turks & Caicos Islands Police Force (RTCPF), but my dedication to serving remained strong. And after forty-two years of service, I retired as an Inspector and the longest-serving police officer to date. It was an incredibly fulfilling experience knowing that I had made a difference in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
B.H: In your opinion and from your experience, what makes a law enforcement environment toxic for women?
Mrs. Durham: The Law Enforcement environment isn’t inherently harmful to women, but there are undoubtedly negative aspects of policing cultures that make it harder for female officers to succeed. Women often have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to earn promotions and other benefits, constantly having to ‘Suck-Up’ to Senior Officers for favors. And unfortunately, there’s a disturbing prevalence of harassment, especially among those in higher ranks. It is my regret that after forty-two years of service, I never surpassed the rank of Inspector, during my tenure. The lack of advancement of women to higher ranking positions, may contribute to the disenfranchisement of female officers. Currently no female police officer has ever surpassed the rank of Superintendent of Police. There’s still a lot of work to be done to integrate women into the law enforcement system fairly and effectively. And a more inclusive work environment must be created where everyone has an equal opportunity to excel.
B.H: What did you enjoy most about your work as a police officer?
Mrs. Durham: What I considered the most gratifying about my work as a police officer, first and foremost, was being able to serve my country. It was indeed an honor to have the opportunity to help victims, especially children, get justice for crimes perpetrated against them. It was enriching to be there for people in their time of need, help them get out of bad situations, and ultimately see them turn their lives around. Knowing that I was making a difference in people’s lives kept me going every day, and I am thankful for the chance I had to serve in this capacity.
B.H: You joined the police force at eighteen; in your opinion, how can policing be a viable and exciting career option for young women who want to join the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Force now?
Mrs. Durham: Policing can be a great career choice for any young woman as long as the organization’s culture is supportive and encouraging. However, for this to happen, there needs to be a change in mindset among those in leadership positions. As I stated earlier, transformational leadership that is open to new ideas and approaches is essential for creating a culture that values diversity and inclusivity and supports all employees’ growth and development. It’s time to leave old attitudes behind and embrace a new way of thinking about policing and the role of women in law enforcement.
Award from Soroptimist Club for Outstanding Service In the TCI
B.H: Police work became more demanding and stressful, with the rise in crime and population growth in the past decade. How did you balance family and your career as a police officer?
Mrs. Durham: Balancing family and career was a challenge, but I could make it work by setting priorities, acquiring a solid family support system, planning ahead, and limiting my after-work involvement. By prioritizing what was most important to me, I ensured that my family and my career received the attention they deserved. Having a solid support system, including friends and family, also helped me manage my workload and responsibilities. Planning ahead was key in reducing stress and allowing me to be more present with my family. Finally, limiting my after-work involvement was crucial in helping me maintain a healthy work-life balance. By setting clear boundaries and sticking to them, I achieved success at home and in my career.
B.H: During your years of serving in the force, what were three of the most significant issues a police officer might face in daily duty assignments that could present conflict, stress, or danger?
Mrs. Durham: As a police officer there are several challenging situations I encountered on the job. One of the most significant is working in a toxic environment. It can be difficult to remain focused and effective when surrounded by negativity and hostility. Another challenge is operating in an environment that needs to be purpose-built for your duties. This can create additional stress and increase the risk of danger. Lastly, unfair treatment can be a significant source of conflict and stress for police officers. It is essential to remain professional and focused in these situations to ensure that justice is served, and the community remains safe.
Mrs. Durham at graduation service (Harvest Reapers International School of Theology)
B.H.: After forty-two years in any profession, retirement takes getting used to and adjusting how you spend your time. Since you have retired, what has been your focus?
Mrs. Durham: Since retirement, I have been making it a priority to spend quality time with my family, particularly my grandchildren. After dedicating 42 years of my life to policing, I realize how important it is to cherish the moments with loved ones. As an ordained Pastor, I have also devoted much time and effort to spreading the word of God through social media and outreach ministry. Over the past ten years, through my outreach ministry, the main focus has been providing basic necessities of food and monetary help to those in need.Sharing the gospel and offering support and guidance wherever possible brings me great gratification.
Mrs. Durham ministering at Revival Faith Center Church
B.H: What advice would you give to women who have worked in a profession for as long as you have: on the importance of self-care, their mental and spiritual health, and planning for eventual retirement?
Mrs. Durham: I advise women who have been in a profession for a long time to prioritize their mental health above all else.Do not allow your job to get inside you; letting it take over every facet of your life. Maintaining a healthy distance from your work is crucial so that you stay focused on solving every problem that arises. Anything that causes excessive stress and disrupts your peace is not worth it. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way – during my time in the profession, I almost lost my life due to the stress and pressure I put on myself, causing me to spiral into deep depression. Remember that you’re there to serve and make a difference, but not at the cost of your mental, spiritual, and physical well-being. Your job is just one aspect of your life, not the entirety of it. Taking care of yourself is essential so you can be at your best until the end of your service and into retirement.
Annual Law Enforcement Agencies Church Service
B.H: Do you miss the profession?
Mrs. Durham: I cannot earnestly say that I have missed being a police officer, my belief is that when your tenure has ended, you should move on. It was an honor to uphold justice and protect my community. Although I may not be wearing a badge anymore, I still strive to make a positive impact in any way I can. Serving one’s country is a noble pursuit I am proud to have been a part of.Being allowed to serve my country was extremely rewarding.
Hey there! Do you know anyone in your community who you think deserves to be in the Limelight? Someone who goes above and beyond for their community and deserves to be recognized for their efforts. I’d love for you to share your experience with me! Please email me their name and why you think they should be in the GEEMS Limelight. Let’s shine a light on those who make a difference in our communities!
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