Behind the badge: Getting to know Hornersville's first female police chief
HORNERSVILLE, Mo.- Jo Beth Patterson, a life-long resident of Hornersville was recently elected to the position of Police Chief, a position that has never been held by a female in the city's history.
When asked how she became interested in law enforcement as a career, she smiled and said, "I can't say what it was. I just know, in high school in freshman year, it was just the thing of 'I want to be a police officer,' and it just never went away."
After graduating from Senath-Hornersville High School in 1998, Patterson attended Arkansas Northeastern College in Blytheville, Ark., and true to her dream, obtained an associates degree in Criminal Justice, graduating in 2001. She noted that she was required to do a paper for her college while serving as an intern. During the internship she was required to learn how a police department ran, how to do dispatch, and how the jail worked.
"At the time it was Roxie at dispatch and so I sat in dispatch with her. Joe Brumley was the chief. He let me ride a little bit with an officer," she said, adding that after learning these things, Sheriff Bob Holder allowed her to do her internship with the Dunklin County Sheriff's Department. After her internship, she was offered a job with the sheriff's department as a corrections officer and she said yes. She was the first female corrections officer in Dunklin County under Sheriff Holder as well as deputy. At this time the jail was located on Slicer Street.
While working a full work week Monday through Friday, Patterson still found the time to attend the Police Academy in Cape Girardeau, Mo., for nine months. She attended classes every Friday night, and on Saturdays and Sundays, finally graduating in 2002.
Once she graduated, Patterson was awarded her commission which meant she had arrest powers, although she wasn't on the road at that time. During this time, she was filling in for a deputy after his wife fell ill and when he later retired, Patterson took his place as deputy. All in all, Patterson has worked in law enforcement for seven plus years before being elected Hornersville's Chief of Police.
When she decided to run for the position of Police Chief, Patterson was working as a teacher's aide with the Senath-Hornersville School District.
When asked why she wanted to run, she noted that she wanted " to make Hornersville a safer environment for all of the citizens."
"You're never going to get rid of crime completely. Mayberry is not in existence anymore. It's not a bad community. We're a good community. I know there is some drug activity and things like that I would like to see decrease a lot," she said, adding, "I'd like to have some more community functions. If I can help somebody who has a drug use problem, all they have to do is ask me and I'll do what I can to get them someplace for help. You can't change the world overnight but I can do a little bit at a time."
When asked what her advice would be for women contemplating law enforcement as a career, she said, "Go for it." She noted that there are no limitations now for women in law enforcement careers but you'll always be tested whether it be your co-workers or someone out in the public.
"You'll have to deal with it," she added, "You don't back down. It's a male dominated workforce. Women are coming through everyday and there are becoming more and more [coming]. There's now three at the [Dunklin County Sheriff's Office] since I left."
As for future plans, Patterson said she would like to remain chief as long as the city's voters keep voting her in.
"It's not actually my decision. It's their decision," she said.
The question also came up on whether she would consider moving to a bigger city to pursue a law enforcement career. She added that at first, early on in her career, she had considered this but now that she has children, it wouldn't be an option. She noted the advantage of living in a small community where everyone knows everyone.
Patterson is married to Jeff Patterson and together they are the parent of two sons, Conner, 7 and Cooper, 2. She notes that her family is into four wheeler races but she is only a spectator. She leans more toward arts and crafts including painting and woodwork , when she is not on call for the City of Hornersville.
In closing, Patterson said, "If there's ever anything I could do, whether it's to get them information if they or their family have an addiction or a problem. They can always come to me. I'll do what I can to find out the information and if I don't know, I'll sure try to find out. That's the bad part, you can't help everybody. You can try all day long and you can't. Let your kids know that police officers aren't scary or bad. They're good. If they're lost or hurt or they think somebody's after them. The kids need to know not to give out information. The kids can always come to me. They call me Ms. Beth, anyway."