Baltimore County welcomes first Asian-American female cop to force

August 21, 2010|By Sarah Tan, The Baltimore Sun

This summer, Rosa Park fulfilled a lifelong dream to become a police officer, and in doing so, became the first Asian woman on the Baltimore County force.

Park, 27, a native of Cockeysville, said she first became aware of the need for more diversity in the field when she was a teenager and her parents owned a number of liquor stores in Baltimore City. One of the stores was robbed, but when her parents called the police, they felt little was done to find the perpetrator. Park believed her parents were brushed off because their English wasn't very good.

"One of my driving forces for why I wanted to become a police officer was just to represent because I think it's needed," Park said.

"I see the rift between Asians and police officers … and I've seen how they interacted with my parents and it's not very nice," she said. "I just know there's a lot of mistrust between Asians and police officers, and I just want to break that barrier and be there for the community."

She hopes that by joining the force, she will be able to offer Asians in the community a renewed sense of trust in the police.

Park, who is of Korean descent, says her mother was extremely supportive of her career choice. "My mom really influenced me, because if she was still in Korea, she would have become a police officer, or she would have tried. She really just wanted to be able to serve the community," Park said.

"My mom never said, 'You need to be a doctor or a lawyer,' she just said, 'You want to do what you want to do, go do it.'"

Park's mother, Joanna, believes her daughter is an essential addition to the Police Department. "It's important because women, especially Asian-Americans, don't know how to ask for help, they're afraid," she said. "Sometimes they have trouble talking to a man, so they need help from another woman."

Jim Johnson, chief of the Baltimore County Police Department, said he's committed to diversity on the police force.

"We have been, and continue to be, focused on creating an agency that is reflective of the public we serve," he said. "Diversity is critical to the success of the agency and to the future of the Police Department."

Park is set to end her field training Monday. She is currently working in the Towson precinct, but hopes to one day serve in the Cockeysville precinct, which has a large Asian community. Though she is excited about her new job, she added that she is concerned about encountering racism, either on the police force or in the community.

"I worry about encountering it anywhere, when I go to the grocery store, not just in the Police Department," she said. "It's the first thing people judge you on."

But she believes she has an important role to play.

"There's a strong need for an Asian face, and if I have to be that face to get other people out there, so be it," she said.

sarah.tan@baltsun.com

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