In honor of Women’s History Month, Martina Ibrahim ’21 organized a panel discussion to bring together prominent women in the local law enforcement community and her fellow Chargers for a virtual discussion about women’s roles and their experiences in policing.
April 9, 2021
When Martina Ibrahim ’21 began her work as a community outreach assistant for the University of New Haven Police Department during the fall semester, she and Chief James Gilman ’93 discussed how they could help strengthen the University community. She suggested hosting panels that would focus on a variety of issues in policing.
That vision took center stage as the University Police Department recently hosted a panel discussion focused on women in policing as part of the University’s celebration of Women’s History Month. Ibrahim moderated the discussion, which brought together several prominent women in the field of criminal justice who discussed their careers and what they have learned through their time in the field.
“I believe women in policing have a difference experience and perspective that is worth listening to and bringing to the light,” said Ibrahim, a criminal justice and national security double major. “I hope it helped students become more globally and culturally aware of different perspectives and that they were able to gain more awareness through this dialogue.”
The panel included Lisa Dadio, M.S., MSW, a senior lecturer of forensic science and director of the University’s Center for Advanced Policing, who retired from the New Haven Police Department as a lieutenant after two decades of service. She says she faced significant challenges before entering the field, while in the police academy, and throughout her career, yet she persevered.
“I always wanted to work in the field, even though it went against my family’s wishes,” she said. “The mentality was that women don’t belong in law enforcement, but it was everything I wanted to do. I had to work double or triple as hard because I was a female. I really wanted to make a difference and have an impact.”
‘Progress is being made’
Renee Dominguez ’20 M.S. says she has known since she was six years old that she wanted to be a police officer. Like many in law enforcement, she was attracted to the field by the desire to help others, but she was told repeatedly that she’d never make it. She is now acting chief of the New Haven Police Department.
“Women definitely have to prove themselves twice as hard just because there is a mentality among some in law enforcement that they don’t want to have a woman as a partner,” said Dominguez, who earned her master’s degree in criminal justice from the University last year.
“We have to break down those barriers and those stereotypes again and again. Here I am as the chief of police. Progress is being made.”
Gilman, who credits Ibrahim with coming up with the idea for the discussion, says women play a critical role in law enforcement – at the University and across the nation.
“Over my 26 years in policing, I have had the honor to serve with many dedicated and professional women in law enforcement, including Officers Sierra and DeRubeis in the University Police Department,” he said. “Female officers provide a vital role in law enforcement nationwide. Obtaining their perspective and learning about policing through the lens of a female officer will no doubt provide our community with a better overall understanding of the complexities in law enforcement.”
‘It is through these discussions that change begins to occur’
Panelists offered advice to current students interested in law enforcement, discussed how they manage their family life and their careers, and how they have handled gender bias they have encountered in their careers.
“I saw myself working harder than my male colleagues,” said Christina DeRubeis, a member of the University’s police department who served as a patrol officer for the Town of Orange and a social worker for the state of Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families prior to joining the University in 2018. “I sometimes worked harder to prove them wrong.”
The discussion was part of an ongoing panel series Ibrahim has been developing that aims to strengthen the University community by bringing Chargers together for important discussions on topics such as the history and future of policing.
“Through the planning of this series, I learned how critical it is to have these important conversations,” she said. “It is important to recognize the flaws in the system of law enforcement. It is through these discussions that change begins to occur.”