The first time Abilene Police Chief Anna Hatter faced a police officer, she never knew the career would become her life’s path. At the time, she was laid off from her sheet metal assembly job and driving around with her two sons in the back seat.
“I ended up getting pulled over and got a speeding ticket with my two little boys in the car and the officer who stopped me was not super friendly,” Hatter said. “I got a ticket, which I deserved, but he was very professional and courteous. That was my very first interaction with a law enforcement officer. I ended up leaving that encounter thinking about that as a career, which I hadn’t previously thought about.”
So now in a time of tension between law enforcement and other communities, Hatter wanted to share her experiences as an officer in Wichita to being a Chief in Abilene, so people can see what skills and what differences future officers may face.
Hatter advises the first step in a person’s journey to learn more about law enforcement careers is to stop by their local law enforcement agency.
“See if you can do a ride along and spend time with an officer on a shift in a patrol car and be able to see what law enforcement is aside from what’s portrayed in the media or on T.V. shows,” Hatter said.
For those younger students interested in law enforcement, Hatter reminds them to keep making good choices, so he or she wouldn’t be rejected in their future applications.
“It’s always important if someone thinks they might want to be in law enforcement to realize that they have to make really good choices, because those are going to all be scrutinized,” Hatter said. “Sometime in the future, if someone wants to apply
Knowing your area
When Hatter joined the Wichita Police Department, she found her transition to wearing the badge as a patrol officer easier, because she knew the lay of the land.
“I grew up in North High which is a nice part of town and it’s very diverse,” Hatter said. “I guess you learn a lot about the community when you live in the center of the city, so that’s kind of what I was used to. So it was a pretty easy transition for me to move into law enforcement there because I was lucky enough to get assigned in that kind of general area to work as a patrol officer.”
Knowing your area could also include understanding what locals do for a living and respecting their industries, whether that be industrial, blue collar, retail and more. Hatter’s area came with a blue collar background, which she understood from her time working in sheet metal.
“I definitely think that I’m not able to fully appreciate how hard people can work when they’re in those jobs, because I think that the world has kind of changed a little bit,” Hatter said. “I think it’s even more challenging now than what it used to be, but I think I have a small amount of insight.”
Starting out as a patrol officer in Wichita, Hatter saw her biggest challenge come from the lack of females in law enforcement and fighting the stigma against women in the career.
“There weren’t very many female officers when I started working,” Hatter said. “There were some and there were plenty more that had preceded me that did a lot of work to be acknowledged as being just as capable as their male counterparts. But it definitely wasn’t as common as it is today.”
For those young girls who want to join law enforcement, Hatter wanted to share the advice that got her through the ranks.
“What I learned over time is that just by working hard and having a good attitude, I was able to gain credibility in my work and that kind of took care of itself over time,” Hatter said.
Big city vs. small town
Hatter wanted to point out a key difference between Wichita and Abilene, which is the ability of time. Since the higher population and call rate in Wichita, officers were driven to go from one call to the next with no stops to investigate or help out a little further. In Abilene, the officers have a little extra time to do a little more.
“These officers here in Abilene take the time to continue to look into things,” Hatter said. “There are plenty of times where there’s another call and they may not be able to get to it right away, but they always seem to find time to circle back and try to look further into things. Which is just something that in a larger agency, I didn’t alway have the ability to do, but they take the time to do it and they make it a priority.”
Outside of Work
In a career that demands a person’s time, body and energy, people need to have a good support system watching out for them and assisting in lifting up the weight. For Hatter, she has to give the hats off for her mom who supported her through everything and watched her sons on those late shift nights.
“Before I was lucky enough to meet my husband and I was still a single mom, she was able to kind of step in and take care of my sons while I was at work,” Hatter said. “I didn’t have to worry about them being okay, which allowed me to be able to do that kind of shift work that was required to be a police officer.”
Starting out as Abilene’s Police Chief, Hatter got so much support from her husband who took on a longer commute to work, so she could take on the role.
“The police department here really spoke to me and made me realize that this was the place where I felt like I could be comfortable and to be able to grow professionally and be able to have a happy personal life as well as a happy professional life,” Hatter said. “Just struck me as the place where I wanted to complete my career in law enforcement.”