By Jacob Mcguire The Norman Transcript, Okla.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Although Detective Elexa Sanders isn't the first female detective in the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office nearly 130 history, she has broken another barrier being the first black female detective.
The Norman Transcript, Okla.
With Women's History Month concluding soon, it was perfect timing for Elexa Sanders, of the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office, to be promoted to detective.
Starting March 18, Sanders went to work for the sheriff's office, sporting a detective's badge.
"I have learned so much in just a few days," she said. "There are a lot of women that have paved the way for me."
Of those women, several are and have worked within the sheriff's office for many years.
"Carolyn Parnell, a detention officer at the Cleveland County jail, and Sandra Roberts, who is no longer with the sheriff's office, are two women who I worked with everyday and looked up too," she said. "If I ever did anything wrong, they would pull me to the side and correct me."
Women, Cleveland County Sheriff Todd Gibson said, have been and will continue to be important to the law enforcement profession.
"It's not the same profession as it was when I got in more than 20 years ago," he said. "Law enforcement has female leadership across the country, and they play a vital role in what we do on a daily basis. Law enforcement is prime for being the flagship for breaking that glass ceiling for women and putting in women in leadership."
Although Sanders isn't the first female detective in the sheriff's office nearly 130 history, she has broken another barrier being the first black female detective.
"I haven't really even thought about it to be completely honest," she said. "I think that it's great though."
Sanders, a 2011 graduate of Star Spencer High School, said since she was young she aspired to work in law enforcement.
"I had a number of family members who were in law enforcement who I really looked up too. I always told my parents 'when I grow up, I want to be a police officer,'" she said.
That aspiration never left, following her through high school and into college.
After attending Cameron University in Lawton for a year, Sanders, a single-mom, became homesick.
"I was just ready to come home," she said. "I didn't like the fact that I wasn't able to see my family everyday. I wanted to be there for my daughter. She's my motivation. She's why I do everything that I do. Everyday that I wake up, I think God for allowing me to be that woman, mom, and role model."
She started doing some research and stumbled upon the COPS Program at OSU-OKC, and enrolled for the fall semester.
Sanders graduated from OSU-OKC in 2015 with her associates degree in police science and earned her CLEET certification to become a peace officer in the state of Oklahoma, all while working as a correctional officer at the Cleveland County jail.
This proved to be effective for Sanders, who had her commission picked up by the sheriff's office in 2017. She spent some time on patrol before being promoted to detective last week.
Sanders said despite being in what many consider a male-dominated field, she never thought of it being negative.
"Everybody has been very welcoming," she said. "In dealing with the guys, you've got to get used to and warm-up to them, but it became fun. I know they all have my back. There's not a day on patrol that I felt like I couldn't work with the guys. They made me feel like we are part of a family."
Gibson said when he took over as Sheriff in 2017, Sanders was on patrol. He said immediately saw the work ethic and tenacity she brought to the department.
"Sanders is exactly what we are looking for at the sheriff's office. She was an easy choice to select for a detective position. I even see her going further than that," he said.
Out of its 189 employees, the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office has nine female commissioned officers and 43 noncommissioned employees -- all of which Gibson said, plays an important role in the mission of the sheriff's office.
"Law enforcement is a very complex career field. At the sheriff's office made up of a diverse group of people and thinkers, something we are very proud of," Gibson said.
"As law enforcement has evolved, we have noticed a need for that woman's touch and mindset. We have to wear a variety of hats at the sheriff's office. We're social workers, parents, peacekeepers and mediators. Having those motherly instincts that women bring to the table is very beneficial in dealing with victims and the public."