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2017 August 13 - 12:32 am

Barriers Broken: Female Police Officer Retiring at 25 Years

Community College Professor Set Officer on Path to Law Enforcement Career

BUTLER, N.J. (AP) — Colleen Pascale said she wasn’t trying to break any glass ceilings when, at age 21, she was hired as Butler’s first female police officer in 1992.

“I was really naive,” she told The Record just days following her retirement after 25 years on the job.

In fact she hadn’t really thought about becoming a police officer at all. One of her Community College of Morris professors, a former New York City police officer, suggested police work to her.

“He said I should consider law enforcement,” she recalled, adding that the professor said she had an “open mind” making her right for the job.

She took a break from college to attend the Morris County Police Academy where she was one of two women looking to work for a Morris County police department.

It was the right call, she said as she wrapped up her career with a rank of sergeant after 25 years, 14 of which were spent working as a detective.

Just a week before her retirement, on June 23, Pascale and fellow officer Bryan Gordon were presented with meritorious service awards by Chief Ciro Chimento for their rescue of an unconscious man on the floor of his burning garage.

On March 4, both officers were dispatched to a garage fire at a single family home. Upon their arrival they rescued the homeowner, who collapsed just inside the door of the fully-engulfed garage.

“By putting their own lives at risk, both officers worked as a team and were able to drag the unresponsive male to safety and then administered first aid,” Chimento said. “The homeowner has since made a full recovery. We at the Butler Police Department are proud of the actions of both these officers.”

“Throughout my career I have had many police officers and community members who supported me,” Pascale said. “They really guided me and were instrumental in my life.”

She said former Police Chief Ed Card advised her to return to school for a degree for “life beyond law enforcement.” She did just that at Fairleigh Dickinson University, also earning a master’s degree in administrative science.

Card also mentored her while on the force, specifically through some tough cases.

There was the Mirasola case in May 2010 where Amalia Mirasola shot and killed her husband Carl in their Butler home. Mirasola was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2013. Pascale was the detective on the case.

It wasn’t Mirasola’s arrest that stands out in her mind, Pascale said, it was the response from the community.

The couple’s 13-year-old daughter and 7-year-old twins received much help from the community, Pascale said. “It had a profound effect on me. The daughter was one of my DARE students,” she said.

Pascale was also the lead detective in the Pena rape case. While she was given much of the credit for a successful resolution, it was really a “great piece of police work” she said.

Colleague Officer Andrew Soules secured the crime scene and he and Pascale were able to grab a print from the victim’s car, she said. The Morris County Sheriff’s Department also assisted.

Still life as the only woman in the department wasn’t always easy, she said.

Pascale file a harassment suit against her superiors during the early years on the job. Last week she said that early on she had her problems with the department’s administration, but they also taught her a great deal about police work. Looking back, she said she now realizes her working in the all-male department was “a big transition for them as well.”

“I probably never considered that,” she said, adding she also determined having a woman on the department is a good thing. She said a woman can help diffuse tense situations.

“We are perceived as having a nurturing side,” Pascale said.

Pascale lives in Randolph where she serves on the Board of Education. Before her retirement she received a Meritorious Award from the Morris County Detectives Association. In 2012, Pascale was presented with a Recognition Award for being a distinguished female in the law enforcement community by the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.

In 2012, Pascale was again recognized for her distinguished service as a female law enforcement officer, and received a Citation of Commendation and Praise from senators Joe Pennacchio and Anthony Bucco and assembly members Jay Webber and Betty Lou DeCroce.

Her next career will involve education, she said, adding she will put her master’s in administrative science as well her experience as the borough’s DARE officer.

As Pascale left her post, she said she is most proud of her service to the community while on the job.

Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com

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