After more than 31 years, the highest ranking female in the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department is hanging up her cuffs.
Eileen Stapp joined the department in 1986 as a dispatcher and was only the second woman ever to wear a sheriff’s uniform in Franklin county.
Rising to the rank of lieutenant, she is the only female on the command staff overseeing communications.
Stapp, who was honored Tuesday by the Franklin County Commission for her service to the county said there has been an awful lot of change over the years.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of great people,” Stapp said. “It’s been exciting and I got to work on a lot of big cases.”
Although stepping down from the day-to-day duties, Stapp plans to stay on as a reserve officer and will still do clerical work from time to time.
In the twilight of her career, Stapp has fulfilled a calling she said she always had.
She worked as a reserve police officer for the city of Washington before joining the sheriff’s department.
“At one time, I wanted to be a game warden,” Stapp said. “Then in college I started studying law enforcement. Once I got in the dispatcher booth, I knew this was the place for me.”
In fall 2016, Stapp and deputy Janice Crews, who was the first female deputy hired in 1971, were featured in The Missourian highlighting the pioneering roles they played in bridging the gender gap in law enforcement.
Prior to 1971, there were women who “helped” the sheriff’s department, but they weren’t full-time staff.
Many times wives of deputies were called upon to search female prisoners or to help the female members of a sequestered jury.
Today, the sheriff’s department employs about 40 women in roles ranging from road patrol to clerical staff.
The female deputies who were the first females to be hired in their respective positions shrug off the term “pioneer.” But they were the local leaders in showing that women could do the job and do it well.
Stapp explained law enforcement is still a male-dominated profession, but the public seems to accept female officers more.
“Dispatcher has always been a more traditional role for women,” Stapp said. “I’ve never really thought about being the highest ranking female. I guess it’s pretty cool.”
She added over the years she has been able to share her experience with other females new to law enforcement and share the experiences she has been through and how to handle certain situations.
“Law enforcement is not a career I would choose today,” Stapp said. “I’m glad to be in here behind bulletproof glass.”
One of the biggest changes Stapp says she has seen in her 30 years is the call volume deputies deal with on an everyday basis and she attributes that to the accessibility of cell phones.
“We see a lot more calls for drugs,” Stapp said. “Plus, today people are calling in a lot more things more quickly. We can get 30 or 40 calls on the same fender bender by people passing by. When I first started we only had one 911 phone line with no call-waiting or caller ID.”