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2014 February 3 - 12:00 am

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Ex-Substitute Teacher Now a Police Officer

Student Spotlight

LEPANTO, Ark. (AP) — Two up close encounters with police work in the past 10 years have led a former substitute English teacher into a police career of her own as Lepanto’s first full-time female patrol officer.

Mary Rolland, 30, will begin her certification courses at the Law Enforcement Training Academy in Pocahontas later this month. She’s been working the third shift as an officer for the Poinsett County town’s Police Department since last May.

“I would never in a million years thought I’d be where I am today,” Rolland said after after completing a recent 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. patrol shift. “I was ready to teach high school English full time. But I was the daredevil of the family, and this job is more suited to my personality.”

Rolland’s first exposure to law enforcement - what she calls her “bad experience” — occurred July 25, 2003. Ricky Cobb, 22, the father of Rolland’s oldest son, was fatally shot outside a Newport home. Another man was injured in the shooting.

More than a year later, Jermaine Grady, then 25, of Newport, surrendered to authorities. Grady pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to four years in prison.

“He’s out walking around now,” Rolland said. “That bothers me.”

Then, in 2010, Rolland was involved in a dispute with someone in Forrest City, she said. A Crittenden County sheriff’s deputy responded and spoke with Rolland.

“I watched how he handled the situation,” she said. “He was caring. He was polite. He was really polite. Everyone has opinions of police officers, and before they never rubbed me the right way. But (the deputy) was awesome.”

Rolland was enrolled at East Arkansas Community College in Forrest City, taking English and education courses. After her encounter with the deputy, Rolland changed her major to criminal justice.

She took a part-time job as a police officer with the Marianna Police Department for four months of 2012 while she finished her schooling.

At first, Rolland was nervous as a female police officer, she said.

During one of her first traffic stops in Marianna, three men got out of a car and approached Rolland’s patrol unit.

“It was terrifying,” she said. “I drew my gun out and told them to get back into the car. They got back in the car.”

Since then, finding a full time job has been more daunting than any traffic stops, she said.

After graduating from college, Rolland applied at 13 police departments in east Arkansas. She ran into what she felt was gender bias while searching for work.

“There are some departments that just don’t want females,” she said.

She applied at one department, which she won’t name, and waited for a nearly a month for a response. She learned the city hired another officer.

“They hired a guy with no law enforcement experience and no college,” she said. “My transcripts were great, and I had good references. I went back and talked to the mayor and said, ‘Tell me why.’

“To this day, I don’t understand why they hired him over me,” she said.

The 13th department she applied at — Lepanto — hired her.

“She’s done real well,” said Capt. David Layman, who, with Police Chief Chad Henderson, oversees the department’s four full-time and four part-time officers. “Everyone in town loves her.”

Rolland said she’s not had anyone challenge her since she became a Lepanto police officer. In fact, it could help her.

“Sometimes they respond better to a girl,” she said. “I don’t have any harsh encounters. They find out real quick I’m not kidding.”

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