SMPD: Elaina Hassan is a K9 officer with the Santa Monica Police Department. Courtesy photo

Santa Monica Police Department Sergeant Tina Greer remembers ringing up customers in the Fred Segal shop she worked at during the late 1990s and spotting undercover officers enter the store.

“I just thought it was the coolest thing ever, and they would tell me stories and all of the search warrants they wrote,” Greer said in a recent interview. “And in the back of my mind, I always wanted to work at Santa Monica Police Department.”

Today, she is a 12-and-a-half-year veteran of the force who works alongside other women like Interim Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, K9 handler Elaina Hassan and personnel and policy officer Kristina Cochran, who was a former high-school teacher who also saw public service as a dream opportunity.

“My dad was a police officer with the Inglewood Police Department. He didn’t want me to be a police officer, but after getting laid off as a high-school teacher in South Central I found myself an opportunity there,” Cochran explained.

They didn’t know it until this week but Cochran and Greer were recruited by the same officer.

“It didn’t take much convincing because I connected with a few officers who had lateraled over here prior to me, and their experience was more of a testimony to this being a place I want to be,” Cochran said. “It just felt like this is an opportunity for growth; this is a place where you can work different sorts of details; and that wasn’t something that we had available in the other department. So, those were the kinds of opportunities that I was looking for.”

Coming from a department where she was the only female officer, Greer said she faced similar challenges before she went to a women’s conference in 2007 and saw more than a dozen women donning an officer’s uniform. This resonated with her so much so that she still remembers telling Seabrooks, who was then a captain, that she needed to find her way to SMPD as soon as possible.

It’s been more than a decade since the conference but SMPD officials will gladly boast they have continued to seek out the best officers the state has to offer no matter their gender.

For those who think policing is a man’s job, Greer invites them to take a trip up to the department’s fourth floor.

“We literally have women working in all capacities. I’m far from the only female supervisor,” she said.

“We’re not just the students, we are also masters of the material and we’re helping deliver in that capacity,” Background Investigator Suzie Wessels, who has been with the department for 9 years, added as she detailed how women can bring unique professional traits that aren’t always seen in men.

“I think a lot of studies have shown that females are less likely to be involved in deadly force situations. A lot of times because of their stature or the fact that they are female, they will exhaust every effort that they can to de-escalate a situation, which is key right now and we’re aware of that,” Wessels said. “In addition to that… a lot of times in some of these sexual assault investigations, the victims will request female officers so we want to make sure we have that available. Some juveniles also request female officers because they may have better interactions and skills when dealing with children, so we want to make sure that we’re taking advantage of everything that females bring to the table and ensure that we have a good balance here and we’re covering all those bases.”

The trio noted there is typically a higher percentage of females at the local department but retirements and other reasons have forced the numbers down a bit.

“I think that the chief wants to get back to those numbers,” Wessels said, mentioning an applicant doesn’t have to be a superhero to be hired by SMPD — simply be someone with good moral character who has an interest in helping other people. “Because the majority of the calls that we go to we’re helping the public. It’s not the hot, crazy calls that we typically think of. A lot of it is interacting with the community and being compassionate and understanding and being able to take a police report that has all of the details you need to make sure that we can conduct the best investigation possible.”

To find the latest job openings available within the Santa Monica Police Department, visit santamonicapd.org.

Brennon@smdp.com