The only “dainty, girly” things about Brookhaven Police Officer Celeste Rausch when she’s on duty are her pink nails and a set of pink handcuffs on the dashboard of her patrol car.
“I ride a motorcycle [off duty]. I work part-time sports broadcasting for Turner Sports,” Rausch said. “I’ve done a lot of things—shoot guns—that are, in my head, male things to do.”
She admits she has a feminine side, though she said she only does her nails to keep from picking at them. “I find that when I polish them I leave them alone for the most part and they don’t break as easily,” Rausch said. “I don’t do my hair or wear makeup on duty.”
As a female officer, Rausch is a relative rarity among local cops. She is one of 11 women among the 70 officers in Brookhaven. In Sandy Springs, Lauren Ruffini is one of 11 female officers on the 125- officer force. In Buckhead. Atlanta Police Officer April White is one of 349 women among Atlanta’s 1,921 officers.
Until this month, Dunwoody’s department hadn’t had a female officer since 2012.
Officer Rashida Moore joined Dunwoody Oct. 8 and was sworn in by the mayor at a City Council meeting Oct. 26. Police officials said few women applied for a job and of the few who did, none were qualified.
In Sandy Springs, Ruffini started as a patrol officer in May, after the department put her through the police academy to get certified. She said she had worked in the DeKalb County Jail and knew from Dunwoody officers that she wouldn’t get hired in that city because she wasn’t a sworn officer yet.
Women in police departments often bring a sensitive and compassionate side to law enforcement, Ruffini said. “Having females is always an asset,” Ruffini said. “We look at things differently.”
Ruffini said she and other women in policing would be called in cases involving children or victims of domestic abuse. “[Children] are more likely to respond to me than a male,” Ruffini said. “I’ll hang out with the child while we try to find the adult.”
But Rausch said she thinks a police force can effectively enforce and communicate with its citizens without having an officer to represent every ethnicity, faith or gender.
White disagrees. She said she believes a police force needs officers who represent the races, beliefs and gender in the community they serve.
“Oftentimes, citizens are comfortable when they know the officer responding understands their customs, practices and religion and can directly relate to the situation at hand,” White said.
Rausch said she wondered if she had a skewed perception because the two agencies where she has worked as an officer had women in investigative roles for sensitive situations. She said she’s never felt her co-workers don’t respect her or that suspects treat her differently because of her sex.
“I don’t know if it’s the motherly side of females—they seem to handle crimes that are serious crimes against females such as rape or crimes against kids,” Rausch said. “I don’t mean to seem sexist but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man in those positions, but this is only my second agency.”
White, on the other hand, argues compassion is the key.
“I believe it’s more about chemistry and experiences more than the sex of the individual,” White said. “Depending upon the current traumatic situation or due to past incidents, our main focus is making the victim comfortable enough to share their story and bring the suspect(s) to justice.”