(Staff photo by Brett Eppley/beppley@madisoncourier.com)
(Staff photo by Brett Eppley/beppley@madisoncourier.com)
Season Jackson didn’t grow up with dreams of being a police officer. 

In fact, she didn’t even consider a career in law enforcement until she was already working in another field.

“I didn’t see a whole lot of female police officers,” she said, noting she believes girls are more likely to choose careers where women are represented and serve as role models.

Instead, Jackson attended school to become a nurse before soon realizing that career path might not be for her. She chose to stay within the medical field and became an emergency medical technician.

But it was during those EMS runs that she became acquainted with law enforcement and again decided to change her career focus.

Jackson shared her experiences during “Herstory,” an event at the Madison branch of the Jefferson County Public Library. The event was part of the library’s Women’s History Month activities.

Jackson told the audience gathered Monday afternoon that she worked closely with law enforcement during her three years as an EMT, often staging – parking and waiting for police to secure the area – before paramedics arrived.

Jackson told of a run in Scott County that helped change the course of her career. She and another paramedic received a call to respond to a situation in Austin. A female police officer responded by herself to the scene where two people were fighting.

Dispatchers ordered the EMTs to stage around the corner from the location until the scene was secure.

“I didn’t want to sit back and wait,” she said. But refusing the order and being involved in the action could have put her partner at risk.

Soon after that, Jackson began applying for jobs within law enforcement. 

She first served as a reserve officer with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department before joining Hanover Police. She then joined the Madison Police Department, where she’s worked for about 10 years.

Jackson said she applied to Madison and went through the pre-employment testing.

“I thought it was going to be easy, but it proved me wrong,” she said.

The run portion didn’t go as well as she’d planned, but that didn’t stop her from applying again and eventually being hired.

The physical testing at the police academy is the same for men and women. Then again, women are as capable of passing all of the academy testing as men, she said.

Jackson said she doesn’t feel singled out or receive any special treatment because she’s the only female on the police force.

“Sometimes I think they forget I’m a woman,” she said. “They don’t treat me any different.”

Jackson said she might have been treated slightly different or had more of a need to prove herself in the beginning, but she didn’t focus on that. Instead, she – just like any new recruit – had to familiarize herself with the job.

“When you first start, it’s so overwhelming to learn everything,” she said.

And she proved she could do the job.

“I don’t feel outcast in any way,” she said.

Jackson did receive comments from a few people in the community when first joining the force. She specifically remembered one person who commented about a female officer being on her own without a partner. Whether it was meant to be said in a condescending manner or not – she still isn’t quite sure. But there isn’t any reason why women can’t handle work as an officer, she said.

While some women may not be as strong physically, it’s important to know techniques and keep up with tactics that provide ways to stay safe when someone is attempting to overpower or resist during a struggle, she said.

“It is possible for women to do this job,” she said. A Mark Twain quote used at the police academy best sums it up for her – “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the fight in the dog.”

After serving about eight years on road patrol, Jackson took on the role of school resource officer for the Madison elementary schools and the junior high school about two years ago. A police presence at the school is a positive for children, she said, and she works to forge a relationship with them so children don’t fear police.

So far, she said, it’s been some of the most rewarding work she’s done as an officer. It’s the little things – like thanks from a student for simply worrying about their wellbeing – that often means the most.

“I love working in the schools,” she said. “And there’s nothing more rewarding than working with kids.”