S/Lt. Robin Schmutz
I began my education at The Ohio State University, while married and the mother of a young daughter. My second year of college took me to Arizona where I graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Justice Studies. Upon graduation, I found myself as a single mother trying to find a career path to follow which would allow me to support my daughter without assistance from my family. I had done some investigative work with the Department of Economic Security in Arizona as well as worked as a private investigator.
Growing up next door to a state trooper, and knowing that I wanted to make the world a better place to raise my child, I drove to the Marysville Post and spoke to a recruiter (who ironically later became my boss). After reviewing the salary and benefits associated with being a trooper, I knew that I could provide a stable environment for my daughter. I was impressed by the appearance of the Patrol’s employees and the professionalism associated with their actions. In May 1995, the moment I set foot into the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy, I knew I had made the right choice. Pride and professionalism surrounded me, as did many scared faces including my own.
Twenty-seven weeks away from my young daughter was the most difficult undertaking that I have ever made, but I kept telling myself the end result would be well worth the sacrifices. I had prepared myself, both mentally and physically for the challenge. Graduation was one of the most exciting times of my life and one of the proudest moments for my family.
My first assignment upon graduation was the Findlay Post. I spent four years at this location working midnights. Again, being a single mother away from family with non-traditional working hours was not an easy task, although I was able to purchase my first home. I was proud to provide this for my daughter without any financial assistance from my parents.
An opportunity arose for an investigative position based out of General Headquarters in Columbus. I knew this would be an opportunity to not only move closer to my family, but work a better shift for my daughter, and ultimately achieve my dream of becoming an investigator. I interviewed for the position, and much to my surprise, received a call about one week later stating that I received it. Selling my house and relocating was yet another challenge in the many to be faced. For the next year and a half, I worked as one of the Patrol’s plain clothes investigators. Looking back on my career, this is one of the positions I enjoyed the most, as I was able to initiate an investigation and see it through to its completion. I was given the latitude and freedom to make the investigation my own.
An opportunity arose in March 2001, for a promotion to the Administrative Investigation Unit (more commonly know in other departments as Internal Affairs). Although I was satisfied with my current position, I knew the promotion would mean a pay raise as well as future advancement. I accepted this assignment, which was also based out of General Headquarters. I spent the next year and a half investigating Policy and Procedure violations by Patrol employees, complaints, and reviewing patrol car crashes as well as pursuits and response to resistance cases. This assignment was an eye opening experience as I saw that troopers make mistakes much like everyone else. A challenge faced with this position was to remain positive even through the most serious investigation. Being a female in this position had both negative and positive outcomes. Certain investigations, such as those involving female victims, were best suited to be investigated by another female. Conversely, there is still the perception among some males, especially in a male dominated organization, that a female should not hold a position such as I did. Proving that I could do the job with professionalism and an unbiased outlook, I overcame those critics.
In late 2002, I was offered a position in the Public Affairs Unit. Again, I enjoyed the position I was in, however, saw this as an opportunity to expand my career outside of the investigative field. I held the position as an agency spokesperson for about one year. This position was nothing like the two previous investigative positions I had left, but showed me an entirely different side of the Patrol. Along with this position came being on call 24-hours a day, seven days a week. I again had to balance work with being a mother.
In 2003, due to a shifting of personnel, I transferred back to the Administrative Investigations Unit. This was an easy transition as I had previously worked at this same assignment. During this assignment, the former recruitment officer I spoke to prior to joining the Patrol, was promoted to commander of the section. This individual really shaped the rest of my career as he encouraged me to go back to the field. He stated that the Patrol needed qualified females in field positions. I took his advice to heart and put in for several field positions.
During this time period, I underwent a serious back surgery. I could have let this hinder my career, but I chose to overcome the pain and move forward. At times this slowed me down, however, this obstacle did not surpass my desire to succeed.
I took the opportunity of working a Monday through Friday shift to go back to college and obtain a master’s degree in business administration. I did not want to limit my knowledge and education to law enforcement, in case I needed another area of expertise on which to fall back. Additionally, advancing with the Patrol would require a more diverse background.
In 2005, I was promoted to lieutenant/post commander of the Toledo Post. The year to come would be the most challenging of my career. The Toledo Post is one of the busiest in the state, and has traditionally been known as a location with a high-degree of diversity among employees. In addition to the above-mentioned information, I had remarried and had two more children prior to accepting this assignment. I spent four months traveling back and forth from the central Ohio area to Toledo, while attempting to sell my house. I had to balance my life between being a post commander and being a mother and wife. Without the support and encouragement of my husband, who is also a trooper, I could not have succeeded. Being a post commander, especially a new one, entails working long hours, being on call every minute of the day, and staying late on many occasions. One and a half years later, I realize that this was the best career move I could have made. This position has allowed me to utilize the experience gained from the many different positions previously held, while combining my new knowledge gained as a field commander.
Being a female in the Ohio State Highway Patrol is not for everyone. If you come to the Patrol expecting to work a 9 to 5 job - this is not for you. If you expect to walk out of work at the same time each day - this is not for you. You must have a strong family support system or role model to guide you through the day to day challenges, whether male or female. Unfortunately, I have attended three police officer funerals since the beginning of my career. Each one is more difficult than the previous one, so if you do not accept the danger associated with the position - this is also not the job for you.
If you think
that everyone will accept you being a female and especially one in an
authority position within the Patrol, than this is the wrong occupation
for you. I recall
One of the biggest challenges I have faced is the guilt associated with being away from my family for long periods of time. At times my daughter cries when I put my uniform on as she knows I may be gone for a long time. My youngest children, ages two and three, know that I am trying to make the world a better place for them by, “catching the bad boys.” I am certain that my accomplishments will allow them to choose any career they desire, regardless of the gender specific connotations that accompany the position. My oldest daughter is contemplating a career with the FBI following college, as she knows her family will be in total support of her decision.
I hope that being a female leader in this organization will not only inspire my children to do great things in their lives, but also other females who feel oppressed from taking on a traditionally male dominated role. Females in law enforcement who apply themselves can have great success. I believe one reason for this is that females are traditionally known as being more compassionate than their male counterparts. I feel this helped me when conducting investigations as I was able to gain the trust of others, resulting in the exchange of more information. Additionally, I believe sensitivity can quell some situations before they arise. Females often times are better communicators than males; an area which is a necessity in law enforcement.
It is now 2007, and I have completed nearly 12 years with the Ohio State Highway Patrol. I have achieved more than I ever imagined. When I feel overwhelmed, I remind myself about why I chose this occupation. I want to establish myself as a role model for my children, as well as for those who have not had the strong family support that I was fortunate enough to have throughout my career. As mentioned earlier, a female in the Ohio State Highway Patrol cannot be successful unless she accepts the challenges that may be faced, and is motivated by them, instead of oppressed by them. I have been treated with respect by other Division employees and have been afforded all of the career opportunities of my male counterparts. I do not see myself as a female within the Patrol, but as a trooper, who chose to uphold the Constitution of the United States and make society a better place to raise my children. The decision to become a part of the Ohio State Highway Patrol family has provided me with not only the financial means to support my family, but also wealth in terms of the friends I have made and the experiences I have gained.