Laurie Kadrich: First job as a cop made her sensitive to workplace inequalities
It was 1979 when Laurie Kadrich, fresh out of college, traveled halfway across the country to bring the law to the Wild West. The police chief in Gillette, Wyo., thought someone educated would make a better cop, “even if it was a woman,” Kadrich recalled.
No other female cop had lasted more than six months, the chief said, and Kadrich was “the last chance for a woman to work in this department.”
At 21, Kadrich didn’t know that her interview process was excessive — a morning-to-night quizzing session, sitting like a target on a swivel chair in a room circled by 13 other male department leaders. She did get the job and was required to dress in the male-issued uniforms, down to the T-shirts and socks, wearing the same closely-cropped haircut as the men. Work included keeping the peace with drunken citizens often hopped up on meth or PCP, who wandered into town after working in the ranches and fields.
“It was very physical. We shut down bars. We fought them from 6 to 7 p.m. at night to 3 to 4 in the morning,” she said.
“I became known for the sleeper hold,” Kadrich added, a technique in which she’d come from behind and choke unruly drunks unconscious.
Confrontations were common among men she was tasked with arresting, some who demanded to speak instead to a male officer. Residents often assumed when she was working with a male police officer that the two were a husband-and-wife team. She became sensitive to workplace inequalities — as a single person, holidays and overtime work fell to her over workers with family.
In a span of 14 years, Kadrich worked up through the ranks at the police department and later became assistant city manager. While working, she squeezed in night school earning her master’s degree. She later became the first city manager for Cody, Wyo., serving in that role for seven years.
Even today, people doubt a woman is qualified to the lead of the city of Grand Junction, a local government with a multimillion-dollar budget and more than 600 employees. However, these days those doubts are expressed in more veiled terms, Kadrich said, with remarks like, “I don’t know why you do that kind of work.”
In a leadership role since age 24, Kadrich is accustomed to the queries. She attempts to deflect them by explaining why she loves her work.
“I don’t think of work being man’s work or women’s work,” she said. “You do what you have the skills and ability to do.”