A new career at 60

Published 7:54 pm Tuesday, April 13, 2010

After 33 years as a finance manager, Angela McRae has turned in her calculator for a gun.

McRae, 60, is one of nine officers recently sworn in to the Suffolk Police Department.

“I’m an extremely conservative person,” McRae said. “It’s not like me to do something like this, but it was something I was always interested in.”

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Before her employment with the Suffolk Police Department, McRae had worked as a customer finance manager at M&M and Mars in Atlanta. When her job was relocated to California in 2004, she decided not to follow it out west. Even though she was jobless, though, McRae didn’t want to start a career she wouldn’t enjoy.

For four years, McRae kept busy by volunteering with Court Appointed Special Advocates and was part of her community’s voting committee and architectural review committee.

“When I left Mars, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” McRae said. “I knew I wanted to do something I could enjoy and not just a job I needed to financially survive. I wanted to find something to do, and do it because it’s what I wanted to do.”

At a Good Morning America job fair in Atlanta, McRae met a representative of the Suffolk Police Department.

“Officer Pond was there, and she seemed sincere and real about enjoying her job,” McRae said. “To be honest, the city was a part of the reason I wanted to work the police department. If I’d been offered this job in a different city, I probably wouldn’t have taken it.”

She was worried about the physical requirements, she said, but after completing the physical testing, she ranked in the same fitness category as the 35-year-olds.

“At the time I thought, ‘I may be too old for this,’ but I’d just finished my first marathon,” she said. “I ended up doing twice as many sit-ups and push-ups and ran my mile and a half in 16 minutes, two minutes faster than the requirement.”

Since being accepted to the academy, McRae has had to overcome additional obstacles, such as firing a gun and learning defensive tactics.

“I came out black and blue some days,” she said. “But I couldn’t give up. I had so many people supporting me.”

But all the work, she said, has been worth it.

“In finance you’re never really considered an entity that makes a difference,” she said. “You’re more a necessary part of something.”

While police work is a necessary part of any community, “you directly make a positive difference with this,” she said. “I don’t want to be known for breathing through the age of 60. I want to be known for doing an excellent job and making a difference.”