When people see Carol McGhee, a detective with the Chicago Police Department and mom of two toddlers, in uniform, she often hears a familiar refrain: “Some people we see with their kids see us in uniform and say‘if you don’t be good the police officer is going to get you,’ and I can’t stand that.”
The moms on the force who are sworn to serve and protect both their family and their districts are teaching their children the same lesson: one of helping, not just bad-guy catching.
Sgt. Brandi Wright
Years of service: 13
Children: Madison, 5, and Bryson, 4
When Brandi Wright was promoted to sergeant in 2017, it was a job she instantly recognized.
“I’m responsible for a group of people, and they call and ask should I do this or that and I’m a mom at work,” she says.
Wright became a mom to her two kids while working on patrol.
“It made me more empathetic to other people and their situations,” she says. “Not having kids before, you think you may understand, until you become a mother and you can feel some of that pull, some of the stories and things that are happening to other people who need help, it really touches you and you can put yourself in their shoes with your own children. It changed in both ways: one, it probably made me a little more guarded, but it also made me a lot more sympathetic.”
Wright’s husband also is a detective with CPD.
Officer Aida Perez
Years of service: 6
Children: Erik, 24, Erika, 23, Eddy, 16, Aidan, 14, Alani, 13, Ameli and Aneli, 7
After seven children, 19 years as a stay-at-home mom and a husband on the force, Aida Perez took the test to become an officer, too. She was 38.
“When you grow in certain areas, the adults tell you the police are bad,” she says. “I can relate to some of these children on the streets because I heard the same thing. I didn’t like the police, and when I got on, I understood everything, I understood procedure.”
She says she and her husband work hard to make sure their kids understand the police are there to help.
“Right now every time they think about the police they think it’s about arresting the bad guys,” Perez says. “I want them to know that it’s not just about arresting the bad guys, sometimes we have to help pick up kids and drive them to school, they don’t know those kinds of things; sometimes we help the elderly, sometimes we are helping people who are sick, go and assist the ambulance.
“It’s not just about arresting, we’re out there and we’re assisting the citizens of the community, whichever way they need us.”
Erika is now also a CPD officer.
Sgt. Katie Chiczewski
Years of service: 17
Children: Matthew, 7, Joseph 6, Theodore, 2, and John, 7 months
Policing is in Katie Chiczewski’s family. Her parents worked for the Chicago Police Department. One sister works for the state police and another also works for CPD.
She has adjusted her schedule so that her kids spend as little time with a babysitter as possible.
“This past year there were three officers killed in the line of duty, and it could happen at anytime, anywhere to anyone. Now that I have my own children, I’m just so much more aware of how dangerous it can be.”
Though the oldest kids have expressed a desire to become firemen, they are slowly learning about Mom’s job.
“Because they are 7 and 6 and they play Roblox and Fortnite, they think of it like me catching bad guys,” Chiczewski says. “ … But I tell them that it’s more about helping people. It’s not about catching bad guys or robbers, as my kids say. I try to teach them that a big component of my job is helping people.”
Officer Paloma Sandoval
Years of service: 6
Children: Grace, 3
It might not be the most glamorous shift, but Paloma Sandoval works midnights to juggle being mom and officer. With 3-year-old Grace in the care of her grandparents, Sandoval polices the Morgan Park District while her daughter sleeps, then comes home to play.
“Being a parent is a very humbling experience, so I think it’s made me a lot more compassionate than I ever was before,” Sandoval says. “I think it helps a lot on domestic (calls) and dealing with parents with their teenagers, because you sense the love and frustration all coming out at the same time.”
As Grace grows up, she’s starting to recognize who the police are and what Mommy’s job means.
Detective Carol McGhee
Years of service: 16
Children: William, 3, and Morgan, 1
Becoming a mom changed how McGhee approached some of the crimes she was investigating.
“Some of the things that you see or hear that maybe didn’t bother you or affect you before, they bother you a whole lot more,” she says. “You feel so protective of them knowing some of the things that people go through, some of the situations that people get into. Your heart is beating outside of your chest because you worry about them all the time.”
Evidence Technician Ashley Hein
Years of service: 12
Children: Owen and Liam, 8
When Ashley Hein earned a promotion as an evidence technician, she asked her twin sons when they’d like to see her.
She could work nights and see them in the mornings before school, or set a schedule to be home at night to help with homework or work while they were sleeping.
Ultimately they settled on her working days, using FaceTime in the mornings so she can see them before they go to school.
Hein was a patrol officer when her twins were born and now works crime scenes, collecting evidence. The change helped her rejuvenate her passion for why she wanted to serve and protect.
“It allows me to give victims a voice,” she says. “They can’t speak for themselves, so we have to rely on physical evidence and clothes to help with this process. …
“Becoming a mom, I think it allowed me to empathize more with victims and I think it gave me a broader perspective on every aspect of police work. How I approached victims, what I thought about different crimes and how it impacted family life instead of just thinking about myself.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.