Choosing and Change by new CopsAlive Contributor
Tammy Featherstone, Sgt. (retired)
Growing up in a strict, conservative, Southern Baptist home came with many challenges. In addition, I was not a conventional girl. I loved being outdoors, playing sports and “rough housing”. I realized early on I didn’t view things the same way my parents did. My father was misogynistic and reminded my sister and I, more frequently than I care to remember, that he was the “head of the house”. I challenged my father quite a bit growing up. It didn’t work out so well for me. I can’t explain the feeling of being a small child and being hit by a grown man.
There were constant conflicts… in what he attempted to teach me. I was told to “keep quiet”, yet to stand up for myself. Be a “young lady “and then “go mow the lawn”. I tried to have my own clothing style but was told I looked like a street walker. Instead, I was made to wear dresses that were for 30-year-old women. I couldn’t wear makeup. I wasn’t allowed to date until my senior year in high school. Even then, it was heavily monitored. I didn’t just have helicopter parents; they also ran the entire airport and air traffic control! (By the way, don’t think for one minute I didn’t learn how to sneak out my bedroom window like a barn owl in the night, just saying.)
Being in that type of restrictive and controlling environment, I learned how to maneuver around in life. I learned how to read facial expressions, body language, and listen to how my father spoke. I knew if he was having a bad day, my day was about to get worse. Co-dependency was my middle name. I didn’t know it at the time but everything I was “learning” would someday help.
I decided to become a law enforcement officer at the age of 33. I was working in the local emergency room as and EMT and had gone back to school. I thought I wanted to be a Physician Assistant. Meanwhile, while working in the ER, I met a lot of law enforcement men and women on a nightly basis. I would ask them about their work or why they had brought someone in or if anything exciting had happened that night. I came to the realization that I wanted to be a cop.
My husband at the time thought I was crazy. We are divorced now, so that speaks volumes. My parents decided they had the right to tell me I wasn’t going to pursue that career. I remember telling them I wasn’t seeking approval but wanted to keep them in the loop. They didn’t talk to me for weeks after that conversation. My mother eventually came around and supported my decision. It was one of the best things I had ever done for my life. I chose my path regardless of what everyone around me had to say about it. I was determined.
So, how did growing up in this type of environment help me? I became good at reading people. Still am. Co-dependency isn’t healthy, but I took the skill and turned it into a positive. What about being hit by my father? I never ran from a fight. I never worried when being confronted by someone larger and stronger. I knew I could handle it. It wasn’t the circumstances that made me stronger. I made me stronger. My father didn’t do me any favors how he raised me, but I continued to choose “me” over all the negativities.
. I’ve proven to myself I can do whatever I choose. Law enforcement was one of those choices.
Women in law enforcement typically make up less than 10 percent of the department. It’s not easy being in a male dominated culture. However, the job is an honor to be part of. I wouldn’t change one decision I’ve made.
Since March was Women’s History Month, I wanted to express my deepest gratitude to the women that came before me, not only in law enforcement but in our great country. They didn’t listen to those who told them they were less than, or that they couldn’t handle it. The women that fought for the rights we have today, fought hard. To all the women who are coming from a place of being small and silent, get large and loud…keep going! Choose you. Choose change!
Most of all, continue to be your fiercest ally!
Tammy Featherstone, Sgt. (retired)
My name is Tammy Featherstone. I am a retired Sgt. in Sarasota, FL.
I recently founded Frame of Reference Coaching LLC. My mission is to
work with women in law enforcement (coaching or mentoring with personal life and career) AND women who are striving to level up in all areas of their life that want (or need) an objective accountability coach to empower them to take control of their life!
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