Republican women speak on safety and support

CHP Lt. Commander Sarah Richards and former Pretrial Services Officer Wendy Wolff take a moment in between presentations.

The Plumas County Republican Women resumed meetings on Thursday, March 23, at the Family Corner Restaurant in Portola.

In addition to the regularly held business meeting, two special presentations were lined up for the meeting.

The first was retired Washoe County Pretrial Services Officer Wendy Wolff, who spoke about the importance of taking safety measures when commuting or driving alone, particularly as women in a rural area.

Wolff moved to the Plumas Pines area after retiring from her career with Washoe County, and is a member of the Plumas County Republican Women.

The second speaker was California Highway Patrol Lieutenant Commander Sarah Richards, who spoke with the group about the “brass ceiling” that exists in law enforcement to this day, preventing women from entering what many still consider to be a “men only” profession.

Richards had a dream of entering law enforcement as a young child, and despite many hurdles on her path, ultimately entered the CHP Academy in 2001. She completed training and graduated in November 2001, and spoke of how the “brass ceiling” truly became evident to her in the academy.

“There were 167 people in my class and only 16 were women. By the end of the class, 11 cadets graduated. In the past 16 years of my work in law enforcement, the number of women still in law enforcement from that class went down to 4,” Richards explained.

“Out of the 7,200 CHP officers in California, only 459, or roughly 6 percent of them are women. I myself am one of 38 women in the entire state holding a ranking position as Lieutenant Commander or above.”

Richards looked at the history of females in law enforcement, and noted, “Up until 1974, females were prohibited from field work. You would only see them doing administrative work. Now, women are not prohibited, but there is still an ongoing struggle to be taken seriously as a female officer. I have had people ask me in all seriousness about my ‘cute little outfit,’ and even had individuals ask if I was ‘really a police officer.’”

Richards laughed and continued, speaking to the need for female professionals in law enforcement to lift each other up in a positive manner, as well as the ongoing need for the next era of law enforcement.

“There is still an issue with sexual harassment and assault in the law enforcement field for women. Statistically, women are 77 percent more likely to be the victim of a sexually related crime in the force, and the perpetrator is generally a coworker. This is an important issue that we are working to tackle head-on,” Richards stated. “This is all a part of supporting each other to facilitate change as strong women.”

Richards is facing issues like this in the hopes that future generations of law enforcement will have a better sense of safety in the line of duty, as well as advocating to the CHP that ultimately, CHP must conform to societal changes to remain relevant in areas such as training new recruits for the CHP academy.

Congressional District 1 representative Doug LaMalfa’s field staffer, Shane Starr, attends meetings in Plumas County regularly and spoke about the situation at the Oroville Dam and where the project is headed.

Also in attendance was Shane Starr, field representative for District 1 Congressman Doug LaMalfa, who was born and raised in the Oroville area.

Starr gave a brief update to the group regarding the state of the Oroville Dam, stating that the Department of Water Resources had made some progress on reinforcing the emergency spillway and that he was amazed at the work being done.

On the flip side, however, Starr spoke of how the project to fully update the dam is looking to head into a possible “multibillion dollar budget,” and that the race to start and complete the work on the Oroville Dam before the next winter season begins is on.

“Congressman LaMalfa has been very involved with this situation, and is working on it nearly daily at this point,” Starr said. “At this point, it’s a matter of opening the discussion on how to handle the construction as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.”

The Plumas County Republican Women meet on the third Thursday of each month, and for more information, interested parties can contact member Liz Holston at 836-4428.

Safety tips on the road

Former PSO and current PCRW member Wendy Wolff compiled a list of some “common sense” tips and suggestions pertaining to travel in hazardous conditions, as well as focusing on how women travelling alone can stay safe. Here are a few of her suggestions.

Be cautious at gas stations. Many women leave their purses on the front passenger seat and the key in the ignition while filling up. Often, this is when a criminal may try to take advantage of the distraction. Lock car doors and keep the keys in a pocket while filling up to avoid becoming an easy target.

Always keep your cell phone somewhere on your person. If you are the victim of a car jacking, having the phone enables you to rapidly exit the situation and contact law enforcement.

Try to avoid driving alone at night, but if necessary, always inform someone that you will be traveling, along with your destination. Park in well lit areas, near store entrances. If you feel that you are being followed in your vehicle, drive to the nearest police station or well-lit, populated area/business.

Keep keys in hand after arrival and after locking door. Do not dig for keys in a wallet or purse on the walk to the vehicle, this is distracting and creates a vulnerable and easy target.

Keep doors locked while driving, and be aware of surroundings.

If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.