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Congrats, Major Burch

Apparently, Suffolk is well on its way to breaking that glass ceiling.

The term “glass ceiling” became almost a joke in the 2008 presidential elections, as the term was bandied about by Democratic presidential primary candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

As it turned out, neither of them ended up winning election to the seat they were seeking, but it’s clear the publicity they both received during the election didn’t do either of them any harm. Clinton managed to snag a seat in President Barack Obama’s cabinet, and Palin is milking the exposure — good and bad — for all it’s worth.

Here in Suffolk, the Police Department recently celebrated the promotion of its first female major, Stephanie Burch. She was one of the first two women to be promoted to sergeant in 1997, and since then has been the first woman at every rank in the department — lieutenant in 1999, captain in 2003 and now major in 2010.

During my interview with Maj. Burch, I noticed a number of positive character traits — humility, grace, determination and faith in God — that I am sure carried her to this point. Should they happen to carry her to the position of chief of police — whether in Suffolk or somewhere else — I would not be a bit surprised, though Suffolk would do well to do anything it possibly can to keep her around.

However, Burch’s first few years in the department were not a cakewalk. She endured quite a bit of criticism from a handful of supervisors in the department who did not believe women had a place in police work. She made it through with the determination and the faith mentioned earlier, in addition to help from others in the department who believed in her.

According to the National Center for Women and Policing, women still make up only about 13 percent of police officers across the country, despite the fact that research shows their communication skills make them more likely to defuse potentially violent situations and more effectively respond to calls regarding violence against women. (Men, don’t get mad at me — it’s the National Center for Women and Policing saying this, not me.)

In addition to Burch’s achievements, you’ll be reading another article in the Suffolk News-Herald later this week about a recent female recruit in the Suffolk Police Department. I’m sure she also has an amazing story to tell.

Congratulations to Maj. Burch, and all women and men in the Suffolk Police Department, for doing a job most of us would never dare to do.