LENEXA, Kan. — Lenexa Chief of Police Dawn Layman has picked up her fair share of awards and recognition over the past 31 years. Perhaps it's because a passion for police work runs in the family.
"My dad was a New Jersey state trooper in the early 1970s, and we would go visit him while he was working," she said. "I thought that was pretty interesting and pretty cool, but I never really saw any females in a position."
As a young girl, Layman said she never seriously considered following in her father's footsteps, thinking that it wasn't an option. Then, in college, a chance encounter changed that perception.
"I was actually in a fender bender and a female police officer worked my accident. So at that point the light bulb went off," Layman said. "And I was like, 'Oh, my dad used to do this, and I have a female officer here. I can do it, too!'"
After a quick change of her college major, it wasn't long before Layman was sworn in to serve and protect.
Over the years, she took note of other leading ladies in her field and followed in their footsteps, eventually serving as the president of NAWLEE, the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives.
"I always have the philosophy, 'You have to see to be,'" she said. "So seeing someone in a position opened up that kind of mindset for me that I could do that."
And that's why she believes it's important to have women and other minorities in law enforcement to inspire future generations.
But she acknowledges sometimes that means putting in extra effort.
"I always felt that I had to do my job twice as good as my male counterparts," Layman said. "Right, wrong or indifferent, that’s kind of the environment that we’ve been in or come up in."
Still, she notes progress is being made, pointing to the fact that she's actually the second woman to serve as Lenexa's police chief. Ellen Hanson was the first chief, starting in 1991 and serving in that position for 21 years.
The city's website reads: "The Lenexa Police Department has a proud history of supporting women in law enforcement. Approximately 12% of full-time law enforcement officers in the United States are female. Currently, females comprise 14% of our sworn officers in Lenexa. We have females in positions from Patrol Officer to Deputy Chief, and in specialized units such as Investigations, Directed Patrol, and School Resource."
For more information on females in the Lenexa Police Department, read their bios here: Women Working for Lenexa P.D.
As for any young women or men who are considering a career in law enforcement, Layman said it's an exciting job that gives you the ability to make a difference every single day.